14. Memorandum submitted by
The Howard League for Penal Reform
1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is
pleased to have the opportunity to provide evidence to the Home
Affairs Committee's inquiry into effective sentencing.
2. Our evidence is framed by our values
and beliefs, namely:
We work for a society where there
are fewer victims.
Offenders must make amends for what
they have done and change their lives.
Community sentences make a person
take responsibility and live a law-abiding life in the community.
3. The Howard League for Penal Reform welcomes
the Home Affairs Committee's emphasis on the need to look at what
practically makes a difference, its emphasis on sentences in the
community and the needs of adults who offend.
4. The Howard League for Penal Reform has
grave misgivings about the continuous stream of legislation. We
believe that this has lead to increasingly complicated sentencing
arrangements, which have gone hand in hand with a public loss
of confidence in the criminal justice system. Indeed rather than
addressing public concern, the deluge of sentencing legislation
has deepened public confusion and distrust.
5. The Howard League for Penal Reform believes
that in order effectively to address offending behaviour and protect
the public the criminal justice system needs to refocus on the
role and opportunities provided by robust and well resourced community
6. We believe that every effort must be put
into endorsing, promoting and supporting the probation service
and youth offending teams. Strong local links and local accountability
are the imperative if community sentences are to meet the needs
of people who offend and thereby enhance outcomes and public confidence.
7. This is particularly important now that the
Offender Management bill is completing its Parliamentary stages
that will, in effect, abolish the probation service as it has
existed for the past one hundred years. New arrangements must
be based on a solid value system that recognises the citizenship
of those being managed, aims to heal the damage inflicted by crime,
and encourage people to make amends.
8. For the past two years the Howard League
for Penal Reform has run a national award scheme for the most
creative and effective community programmes. We believe the criteria
against which we judge these awards provides the basis upon which
robust and effective community sentences should be developed.
The award looks for programmes that:
are part of a community sentence;
are rehabilitative and help to prevent
are realistic and positive;
recognise the individual circumstances
offer a programme tailored to individual
meet the needs of specific client
groups eg women, young people or ethnic minorities;
involve users in planning and evaluation;
are based on restorative principles;
encourage offenders to think about
the consequences of their crime;
encourage offenders into employment
or education; and
work collaboratively with the local
9. Our community programmes awards celebrate
good local practice and initiative. Our aim is to promote the
winning schemes locally while teasing out the principles guiding
them to encourage the development of similar programmes elsewhere.
The ability for community schemes to meet local needs is imperative.
We do not believe that there ever can be a one size fits all approach
to community programmes. Whilst we recognise the need for national
strategic direction in sentencing for community penalties, there
must be room for local flexibility and creativity. The theory
of simultaneous loose/tight structures is discussed in many management
texts and refers to the requirement to demand conformity to essential
values or core tasks and at the same time to allow as complete
autonomy as possible in order to develop creativity and responsiveness
to changing environments. To this end, we believe that a national
directorate should set guidelines and principles within which
framework local services can operate challenging programmes appropriate
to the community.
10. Over the last two years, the Howard
League for Penal Reform Community Programme Award has identified
17 winners. The following Award winners demonstrate some core
11. Community programmes can work effectively
with people whose offending may be regarded as high risk while
still protecting the public.
A. Circles of Support, Thames Valley PartnershipHoward
League for Penal Reform, Programme of Special Merit, 2006
Circles of Support work specifically with high-risk
men and women who have committed sexual offences. A core of paid
professionals guide the work but the face to face work with offenders
is delivered by trained volunteers. This community programme is
currently funded by NOMS.
Circles of Support provide a structured restorative
approach. Within each circle there is a core member (offender),
volunteers (representing local communities) and professionals
(attending when appropriate). Sometimes volunteers have been survivors
of sexual abuse. Circles address the needs of the victim, the
offender and the community.
Circles of Support volunteers receive specialist
training prior to joining a circle and ongoing training throughout
their time in a circle. Volunteers work as part of a team, never
in isolation, to form a structured support network. The commitment
of volunteers who are able to provide support and monitoring on
a long-term basis is the key to the success of the programme.
Information from the programme shows that no
new sexual offences have been committed by any core circle member
in the past five years. The reconviction rate for a person convicted
of this type of offence is generally 60%.
B. Staffordshire Probation Service and Heantun
Housing Association's Intensive Floating Support SchemeHoward
League for Penal Reform, Programme of Special Merit, 2005
The scheme works with high risk and prolific
offenders by challenging their behaviour, providing accommodation
in an approved premises hostel and providing an enhanced level
of support. It is funded by a Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
Supporting People Grant. The strength of the scheme is its ability
to respond to its client's individual circumstances. Specific
support is given with housing advice and intensive housing management
support; life and social skills development; employment and education
Forty-one clients have been on the scheme since
2002 and only one has been re-convicted (and then only after moving
from the area and the scheme's support). All other cases have
maintained accommodation the community.
The direct costs are £70,000 per year plus
£2,500 associated costs to the probation service.
The scheme is currently considering using volunteers
to provide additional, out of hours support based on the Circles
of Support model.
12. Community programmes should focus on
alcohol related offending. The Howard League for Penal Reform's
own research (Out for Good, 2006) showed that much emphasis is
placed on providing drug related programmes yet when asking young
people what directly influenced their offending behaviour, alcohol
was often a more prominent factor.
A. Sacro Alcohol Education Programme, EdinburghHoward
League for Penal Reform, Programme of Special Merit, 2006
This community programme is for people whose
offending behaviour is alcohol related. It can be used as part
of a probation sentence or prior to sentencing. It tackles alcohol
issues from the perspective of offending behaviour and specifically
uses group work methods to explore and tackle alcohol linked offending
behaviour. It helps individuals to develop and adopt more positive
and law-abiding lifestyles. It is a programme that adds to existing
probation work. It is delivered via an eight-week group work or
It can be delivered in single gender sessions
in order to address the issues facing women and men in relation
to both alcohol use and offending. Very few organisations provide
such a service and although the groups are small the programme
provides a safe and friendly service for women. In-house evaluation
of the service carried out from 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2005,
showed that of the 11 women who started the programme in this
period, 10 successfully completed, where the high completion rate
suggests that the programme responds well to the needs of women.
More generally results also show that 71% of
those who completed the programme had no further convictions after
one year, compared to 56% among those who failed to complete;
and after two years 64% of those completing the programme had
no further convictions.
13. Using restorative justice and mediation
with adult offenders:
A. Remedi, Restorative Justice and Mediation
Initiatives, South YorkshireHoward League for Penal Reform,
Programme of Special Merit, 2005
Remedi provides high quality restorative justice
interventions, quality support and training for all restorative
justice practitioners. It delivers restorative justice interventions
locally but it is recognised for its specialism at a national
level. Within a wide range of services, Remedi regards it's adult
mediation work as its flagship service.
Victims are central to the process. Both victims
and offenders using the scheme are given the chance to resolve
issues, feel empowered, have an opportunity to have a say, move
on and have a sense of satisfaction. The scheme works well due
to the professionalism and clarity of purpose of the staff team
and their commitment to providing a true restorative justice service.
This professionalism is also extended to their volunteers. Their
proof as a credible and professional agency is reflected in their
training being accredited and recognised nationally under NVQ
in Restorative Justice.
Funding is currently provided by the local probation
service, YOT, the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund and the Esmee Fairbairn
14. Effective community pay back. Although
the scheme outlined below works with young people, we believe
the model that is used has principles that can be applied to adults.
A. Sunderland Youth Offending Service Restorative
Justice SchemeHoward League for Penal Reform, Outstanding
Consultation with victims of crime has led to
a majority of requests for young people to be placed on community
payback under this scheme. Sunderland YOS' Restorative Justice
Scheme currently has over 22 payback schemes providing meaningful
and valuable unpaid work.
Local communities have been asked to identity
programmes of community payback that maximise the benefit to all
concerned. The scheme operates six days a week, 50 weeks a year,
with young people involved in over 400 sessions a year.
Sunderland YOS states that the total cost including
salaries is less than £90,000 per year. It is also supported
by local businesses which donate paint and other materials. This
approach of working collaboratively with the community has been
particularly effective in ensuring young people begin to consider
the needs of othersoften those less fortunate themselvesand
to appreciate the principle of equal opportunity for all.
15. Working with disparate and entrenched
communities in partnership, using a three-teir intervention programme,
which can be replicated with adult offenders.
A. Inclusive Model of Partnership Against
Car Crime (IMPACT), BelfastHoward League for Penal Reform,
Programme of Special Merit 2005
Co-operation at a local level is crucial for
effective practice within this scheme. The various agencies involved
work together through joint funding, staff secondment, and delivering
their core practice of intervention, diversionary and preventative
The project works with young people involved
in car crime; undertakes diversionary work with those on the margins
and preventative work with those vulnerable to involvement. In
practice this means work can be carried out in environments ranging
from prisons, juvenile justice centres, youth centres, probation
offices, primary and secondary schools, IMPACT's own premises,
community based premises and street locations in detached methods
The IMPACT Project is based on a partnership
model and is built upon two fundamental premises. Firstly, it
adopts an inclusive approach. Despite the political sensitivities
that exist in West Belfast, IMPACT has resolved this by developing
two bodies to direct its work. There is an advisory committee,
which includes the PSNI and other statutory agencies to advise
on the role and scope of the project. The project is also managed
by a steering committee made up of equal representatives from
the local community sector and the range of statutory partners
contributing resources to the project. The second premise guiding
the project is that the operational team is drawn from a range
of different backgrounds reflecting partner agency interests and
This project is a truly multi-agency and partnership
scheme, incorporating health, education and the criminal justice
systems. The project itself was set up as the community felt there
was a need and has been involved with the management and direction
of the project.
16. Community programmes need to be well
resourced and cannot afford to lose the dedication and expertise
of staff within them. The Y-Pac programme works with young people,
but it does highlight the importance of high quality and charismatic
staff to deliver effective programmes.
A. Y-PAC (Young People Affected by Crime/Confidence),
Newham Youth Offending TeamHoward League for Penal Reform,
Outstanding Programme 2006
This is an eight week programme of cognitive
behavioural activities that are delivered using fun interactive
exercises, role-plays, discussions and artwork. It is effective
due to the blend of skilled practitioners and a programme that
helps young people to explore past experiences as a tool to enable
them to develop new strategies to strive for a better quality
17.The Howard League for Penal Reform is producing
a handbook of positive practice in community programmes which
will be published at the end 2007. It will provide a practical
guidance and a set of principles applicable to all community sentences.
18. Community sentences have real potential
for enhancing public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Local accountability and visibility foster such confidence. The
Howard League for Penal Reform suggests that rather than abolishing
local probation boards they should be strengthened and could include
sub-committees of local people to oversee, for example, unpaid
19. Certain new sentences have encouraged public
confidence through rigorous and transparent continuing supervision.
The Drug Treatment and Testing Order is a good example as this
order has a focused target group, which is supported and scrutinised
throughout the period of the order. This order enables the work
of the probation service to be supported by the sentencer who
both invests in and monitors the progress of the individual.
20. The ability to match the needs of the
individual and the community throughout the period of the sentence
gives an opportunity for the criminal justice system to be both
expedient in the use of its scarce resources as well as increasing
the potential effectiveness of the order. The Howard League for
Penal Reform believes that the way in which these orders are structured
provides a model, which may have much to offer.
21. We believe that there is a strong case
for enhancing judicial accountability for the sentences they impose
through long-term involvement with the sentences they impose.
This practice would be beneficial to both parities. The recipient
of the sentence would be aware that the sentencer was monitoring
their progress and could act as a further stimulus for compliance.
The sentencer would be aware of how the sentence they impose is
being delivered and its impact thereby increasing the sentencer's
knowledge and awareness of community programmes delivered in their
22. We are aware that probation boards currently
involve the judiciary and magistracy, yet new proposals for committees
do not due to the perceived problems with conflict of interest.
We believe that the emphasis of these new committees on including
business people "buying in" sentences is a retrograde
step. Sentencer awareness of the range of community programmes
in their area and their potential is extremely important.
23. The Howard League for Penal Reform believes
that more not less attention ought to be paid to pre-sentence
reports. They help provide information to the courts about the
needs and issues facing the individual who is before them. Pre-sentence
reports are a resource for sentencers in determining what intervention
is appropriate; for those delivering the sentence whether in the
court of the community; and also a tool by through which the reality
of the proposed supervision can be outlined to both the courts
and the public. Investment in pre-sentence reports and those charged
with preparing them should be a priority.
24. The Howard League for Penal Reform has
long been an advocate of unit fines. We believe that any move
to increase the use of fines by courts can only be introduced
with an equitable and workable system for imposing fines. The
virtual demise of the fine, in its current form, is to be deplored.
It is a useful response in appropriate circumstances, but it must
be appropriate to financial circumstances as well as proportionate
to the offence. In the past, the Howard League for Penal Reform
has suggested that the monies raised through fines should be put
back into work with and for the victims of crime.
25. The Howard League for Penal Reform is
concerned about the inflexibility and automatic nature of breach
of community orders often for seemingly minor infringements. In
recent months there has been an explosion in the number of breaches.
This results in significant numbers of people being received into
26. The Howard League for Penal Reform has
advocated improved information for courts and from courts, and
the concomitant attention given to that information. We do not
believe that courts can be exempt from the financial and economic
constraints on the use of resources (The Howard League for Penal
Reform, The Dynamics of Justice, 1996) and believe that
the link between sentencers' decisions the costs of criminal justice
need to be established. In order that courts can achieve greater
consistency and effectiveness in sentencing there should be better
information about sentencers' own activity in terms of costs and
outcomes. This would increase the accountability for both the
social and financial costs of courts decisions. The Howard League
for Penal Reform has suggested that every court should publish
an annual report (The Howard League for Penal Reform, Sentencing
for Success, 2001).
I hope you find these comments useful, please
do not hesitate to contact me should require any further information.
15 March 2007