Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 17 JUNE 2008
Q80 Dr Whitehead: Does that relate,
in your view, to not just a question of predictions, but the question
of the matrix of cost-effectiveness as it relates to what you
are predicting, how accurate your predictions are likely to be
and what is the relative cost-effectiveness between taking certain
elements of those predictions and projecting them so that the
cost-effectiveness is at its maximum?
Dr Chitty: That is part of the
work that we are doing more and more, and I think one of the important
parts of that work, as we develop that forward, not only are we
developing that methodology and improving the quality of the information
and, indeed, we have got a unit cost study that will go with the
cohort studies, so over the next few years we will be getting
better and better information on that, which I think is very important,
but what we will do in the mean time is sensitivity-test it.
We are not just going to say the answer is four and we are happy,
we are actually going to say, "But what if that happened?
What would happen to the result?", and really test it out
so that what we can say with confidence is this, and when we are
not confident what we will say is, "We are not confident.
This is our best judgment on it", and be honest about that,
so that people can make that decision, because I think that is
Q81 Mr Heath: Can I follow up one
point there? I was going to come back to it later, but it concerns
me slightly, and that is the mismatch between the local reoffending
measure which you obviously consider to be of value in respect
of the Probation Service, contained as they are within the local
justice areas, and the national prison system with its kaleidoscopic
movement of prisoners around the country and the inability to
pursue a consistent programme of individual business. It seems
to me that, without local placement or commissioning of prison
places, you actually have two completely separate measures there
which clash in terms of the outcome that you can either predict
or the effectiveness which you assess.
Dr Chitty: I think there are a
number of issues around that. First of all, as far as I am aware,
in terms of the evidence, I think only around 1% of people did
not complete their offending behaviour programmes because they
were transferred. Obviously, there are issues about transfer.
I think about 8% of people did not finish their drug treatment
because they were discharged. So there are a number of issues
around that, and, equally, there are a number of issues around
the fact that people do move around the prison estate, but they
need to move round the prison estate because they start in one
prison and then they are moved to the right prison. So, inevitably,
there are good movements as well as difficult movements around
the prison estate and when it is overcrowded, of course, that
is more complicated. We have been doing some analysis to try and
get under that, and, as you say, it is very, very hard, but I
think some of the work that we are doing is getting very interesting.
What we are trying to do is to get a sense of the different types
of prison and the implications of the different types of prison,
because it may well not be that there is one prison in particular
where you can say that is the one that makes the difference, but
if you can start to look at different types of prison and then
take into account the different types of people who are in those
prisons, you might yet be able to do something to compare the
actual reoffending with a predictive model of that, and that is
exactly where we want to go and move into. The whole point of
doing all of this, of course, is to enable people to understand
what is going on. The local measure at the moment is based on
probation case load, so it is different. It is looking at who
is on the probation case load at any one stage so you can look
at what is happening in that area; so it is different.
Mr Heath: There is also a question that
arises in my mind as to who is being informed, and I think we
are going to come on to the sentencing guidelines in a moment;
that is only one aspect of it; that is the Department of Justice
view, a policy driven view. I wondered to what extent your information,
the information you are collecting, assessing analysing, is actually
in the hands of the judiciary directly and informing their decisions?
Q82 Chairman: That must include people
at the commissioning level in particular, the commissioning service
on the admission of NOMS itself, without all the information required
to make those decisions.
Dr Chitty: What we try to do is
to make sure that the knowledge that we have is disseminated.
Part of the emerging information strategy from the Ministry of
Justice is to do a better communication strategy, if you like,
for our analysis and our use of evidence, because we do actually
publish all of our work. In fact the Sentence Guidelines Council
publishes annually the sentencing and, indeed, local sentencing,
and so there is information out there, but to be fair, the question
that I think also needs to be asked is are people reading it?
Are people seeing it? The information is there.
Q83 Mr Heath: Can they connect the
outcome to the sentence? You are giving them information about
how they, corporately, have been in sentencing, but do they know
whether that has worked?
Dr Chitty: Increasingly they should
do. Of course, one of the purposes of doing the local area measure
is to enable sentencers to have that information. Increasingly
there are examples where they have actually tried that locally,
particularly, for example, in drugs courts, where they have actually
continued the review, so there is that, and certainly where sentencers
have been involved in that they have found that very useful. I
have had discussions with magistrates across the country, with
judges, as part of the Judicial Studies Board Continuation Seminar,
so I have been giving them the general information, but I think
that is something that, as we develop the local measure and as
we develop our understanding more, we want to get it out there
because it is very important people know what is going on. Of
course, that is the whole point in doing this. It is not a perfect
measure, the local measure, but it is good because it is timely.
Q84 Mrs Riordan: In your view, what
use is made of external academic and practice based research in
providing evidence-based advice to ministers on justice policy?
Do you think there are tensions in the relationships between internal
and external researchers?
Dr Chitty: I think that the relationships
between internal and external researchers have been developing
over the years, and I think we are now at a really interesting
and exciting time. We have been doing some work across the Ministry
of Justice, for example, with the Socio-Legal Research Users Forum,
but also looking at capacity building with criminology colleagues
nationally, internationally and generally, not just the academic
community, but the broader external research community and the
research councils. I am actually the MoJ link with the Economic
and Social Research Council. We are linked still with the Home
Office through to the other research councils. There is a very
strong role and, indeed, an increasingly important role, I think,
for the external research community, for the external knowledge
community, to have access to policy operational colleagues and
ministers. That is deeply important, because there is so much
interesting, valuable evidence out there and we need to make sure
that we bring it together. Of course, part of the reason why we
do systematic reviews and rapid evidence assessments is exactly
that: to bring in that external knowledge. The other thing that
we are doing that is important is developing nodes where we have
got special relationships with areas of expertisean example
of that is Lancaster University on reconvictionsso that
we can draw down that knowledge and make sure that ministers and
others get the best possible advice, not just internally but externally.
The other area which I should mention is the Correctional Services
Accreditation Panel, which is a very important part of the correctional
services accreditation process and has got some very eminent academics
on it who feed directly into that.
Q85 Mrs James: Based on your knowledge
of the drivers of the prison population, how confident are you
that the long-term steps the Government is taking to expand prison
capacity and introduce a structured sentencing framework are enough
to prevent future prison overcrowding?
Dr Chitty: The projections that
we have done and the work that has been followed up from the Carter
Review would suggest that the Government is in the right direction.
Certainly, if you look at our projections (and we can see them),
they fit with the kind of analyses that have been done by Carter
and, indeed, if you look at the recent Criminal Justice and Immigration
Act, the kind of implications of that, the impact assessments
of that, they have been taken into account in that. The evidence
suggests that the Government is in the right direction.
Q86 Mrs James: Thank you. Is there
any data available to indicate the extent to which current sentencing
guidelines are used and how effective they have been in predicting
the probation and prison populations?
Dr Chitty: On the sentencing guidelines,
we did do a piece of work a while ago, which I referred to in
terms of when the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was implemented, on
the 15% reduction, and we did that with the Sentencing Guidelines
Council. I think it is fair to say that the 15% reduction did
not happen. We have done some work on that. My staff are actually
involved with the Sentencing Commission Working Group and, indeed,
are doing a survey at the moment on sentencing decisions as part
of that, so they are gaining more knowledge, and, indeed, the
Sentencing Commission Working Group will, obviously, be seeing
that and reporting on that some time in the summer.
Q87 Julie Morgan: How does a structured
sentencing framework fit in with judicial discretion?
Dr Chitty: I am not sure that
I am in a position to comment about that. What I understand from
the evidence is, if you want to have a system to predict the prison
population, one of the key things you do need to know is what
is going to happen to sentencingthat is a key driverand,
therefore, whatever you do, you need to have a system in place
that enables you to understand what is going on and to predict
Q88 Julie Morgan: What about indeterminate
sentences, where you do not know what they will be? How do you
feed them into the system?
Dr Chitty: Interestingly, we have
done quite a lot of work on that and we have, as part of the current
projections, projected indeterminate sentenceswe have done
a model for that with our colleaguesand, looking at the
latest figures, and, forgive me, I thought you might ask me that
question, so I have got them here, in terms of the IPPs we actually
projected by the end of May that there would be 4,441 IPP sentences.
On 6 June there were 4,386. I am afraid we were 55 out, but I
think that is quite good.
Q89 Chairman: What you cannot predict
is how long they will actually be in for?
Dr Chitty: No, but we have some
information about their tariffs, of course, and what we can do
from that (and, indeed, we have been working quite closely, not
just with the policy and operational colleagues but with the judiciary)
is to try and understand what that might be. I think at the moment
the tariff is around about 30 months. If I have got that wrong
I will check that. In essence, what we need to do, of course,
as you rightly say, is to look at the implications of that. I
know one of the things that NOMS is doing is actually working
out, for example, what it is that needs to be done with indeterminate
sentence prisoners to make sure that they get their offending
behaviour programme so that they be assessed for parole and things
like that. So there is work going on in the organisation, not
with us but to actually to understand that and therefore project
and manage that.
Q90 Mr Turner: Could I ask a question
about probation? In the rural and particularly very rural and
isolated Isle of Wight, are they getting the sufficient variety
for people which is easy to deliver in cities but which may be
difficult to deliver in rural and isolated areas?
Dr Chitty: I do not know the specifics
of that and I might need to come back to you to on that. Certainly,
from what I remember of it, there are differences in the availability
of interventions by probation areas, and I know that work has
been done to look at that. A good example of that is alcohol programmes
where, for example, an area like Wiltshire used not to have any
but they do now. So I know that work has been done on that, but
forgive me, off the top of my head I do not know the specifics
of the urban/rural mix.
Q91 Chairman: We referred earlier
to cost-benefit analysis work that that been done. Can you direct
us to anything that is already in the public domain that illustrates
how the Department does cost-benefit analysis, or could you produce
for us subsequently perhaps an example of how cost-benefit analysis
has been used in the policy formation?
Dr Chitty: Yes; certainly, yes,
to the latter. I do not know off the top of my head what has been
done. The basis for our cost-benefit analysis is very much the
Treasury guidance in terms of the Green Book around this, but
having said that, we have done quite a lot of work, for example,
with the South West looking at their cost-benefit framework and
using that to try and understand what the case load is, what the
costs, what the harms are to society, what the criminal careers
are of their offenders and, therefore, trying to understand the
benefits of intervening with different types of offenders, and
I am certainly very happy to make sure that some of that is available
Chairman: That would be very helpful.
Q92 Dr Whitehead: Could I briefly
return you to an answer you gave concerning the input of research
material in the recent Carter Review. Was all the information
that came from the Department of Justice to the Carter Review
published or was that private communication information to Lord
Dr Chitty: The evidence that we
provided to Carter was published, yes, absolutely, and, indeed,
one of the things I would make sure is that it was.
Q93 Chairman: Was it published with
the Carter Report or separately?
Dr Chitty: We did a number of
things, because my staff actually were seconded to Carter, so
they were actually involved in that, and, of course, as you can
imagine, they could not have done some of the projections work
without knowing the detail of that. Indeed, when it came to things
like the use of the Police National Computer, they used some of
my staff to do that. So we supported the Carter Review. It was
entirely independent, I hasten to add, but certainly my staff
were involved in that, and the evidence that was used in that
was actually published.
Q94 Alun Michael: Can I follow that
up? The evidence-base of Carter seemed to be on the light side,
it has to be said, and I am now confused. Were members of your
staff helping Carter, so it is entirely his business what was
there, or were you producing, separately, evidence on which he
based some of his conclusions?
Dr Chitty: No, because my staff
were involved, he was managing them, but my role, as is my role
wherever I have worked, is to make sure that the evidence is impartial,
it is not over-interpreted, it is not under-interpreted. So he
was managing the work, very much so, but we had a quality assurance
mechanism to be confident that that information was impartial,
objective and all the rest of it.
Chairman: Thank you very much. We are
grateful for your help and we look forward to hearing from you
on the cost-benefit analysis.
10 Note by witness; Grove Macleod Model: Statistical
Analysis of Offenders Careers, using data from the Offenders Index
(Home Office Occasional Paper 8). Back