Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment - Justice Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 94)



  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[10]. 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 important.

  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 expertise—an example of that is Lancaster University on reconvictions—so 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 sentencing—that is a key driver—and, therefore, whatever you do, you need to have a system in place that enables you to understand what is going on and to predict for it.

  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 sentences—we have done a model for that with our colleagues—and, 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 to you.

  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 Carter?

  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

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