The role of the Probation Service - Justice Committee Contents

Written evidence from Local Crime Community Sentence National Steering Group-Probation Association (PB 10)


The aim of the Local Crime Community Sentence project is to improve public confidence in sentencing and to raise awareness of the effectiveness of community sentences and the work of probation staff.

The project is overseen by a national steering group, chaired by Rachel Lipscomb OBE JP. The steering group meets three to four times a year to consider comments from participants and development needs and it organises workshops as appropriate throughout the year for the benefit of local co-ordinators.


We would like to bring LCCS to the attention of the Select Committee as the project has demonstrated over the last seven years that it is an important part of probation work.

With the reduction of courts over the last 20 years and the highly charged media reporting of incidents that involve probation supervision it is essential that the general public understand:

—  How probation staff supervise offenders.

—  Why a community sentence may be the most appropriate sentence.

—  What that sentence may involve.

—  What sanctions are there for non-compliance?

—  When are the sanctions used?

The presentations do change perceptions and increase confidence in sentencing and probation, as part of the wider need to raise public confidence generally in the criminal justice system.

This is because presentations use local "news" type scenarios. The joint presentation style with magistrates and probation is interactive.

The presentations are semi-structured and get audience involvement while giving presenters confidence to stay "on message".

Key messages that underpin presentations:

—  To reduce crime and the number of victims of crime we need to change the way offenders behave.

—  Prison has a role to play but is not always the best answer.

—  Community sentences are tough and demanding. They can be more effective than prison in reducing re-offending and protecting the public.


The LCCS project is led by a national steering group with representatives of the Magistrates' Association, the Probation Association and criminal justice advisers but it is driven locally by magistrates and probation working together. The support and enthusiasm of Probation Trusts, their Chairs and Chief Executives raises morale and helps staff to appreciate their value in testing times for public services.

LCCS challenges perceptions and changes attitudes by providing information and improving understanding to a wide range of audiences. It is not about "preaching to the converted".

It has been achieved by developing an interactive presentational style which develops close engagement and participation with community audiences.

Easy to use, case-study materials which look behind the headlines of media reports of local crime are used to underpin joint presentations by magistrates and probation. The media reports are deliberately eye-catching and often economical with the truth. Step by step more details are revealed about the offence and offender and a discussion of "before and after" attitudes towards sentencing is encouraged.

With this approach audiences are more open-minded; they change their attitudes when confronted with in-depth facts about offences and offenders which are explained.

The case-study material used in the presentations has been developed nationally but messages can be tailored locally. There is the freedom to select and choose the most relevant material for different audiences.

By using structured presentations and case-study material it is easy for presenters to present confidently and work together as a team—with equal weight and authority.

Through the presentations, audiences understand more about sentences served in the community, as well as realising that what they usually read about a case is a sensational headline which does not always reflect the facts of the case.


A wide range of audiences have been reached including victims groups, neighbourhood watch, women's groups, pensioners, students, business organisations, district and parish councils, religious groups, minority ethnic and disabled groups, police community support officers and police probationers.

Building on the successful project pilot which was completed in 2003, local magistrates and probation are now working to deliver an LCCS programme in over 30 areas in the UK.

Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Durham and Tees Valley, Hampshire, Humberside, Kent, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, London, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and W Midlands, Norfolk and Suffolk, Surrey and Sussex, Thames Valley, Warwickshire, Dyfed Powys, North Wales, South Wales, Cumbria, West Mercia. Avon & Somerset, Gloucestershire, Merseyside, Wiltshire, West Yorkshire, Gwent, Dorset Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire.


National evaluation by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, of LCCS has shown what a powerful tool, interactive presentations to community groups can be. (2005 evaluation attached).

As important in some ways as the project itself, is the way in which it brings together magistrates and probation staff. LCCS creates a close working relationship and greater understanding between probation and the magistracy without in any way comprising their respective roles. The presentations are frequently used as part of induction training for new intakes.


LCCS co-ordinators have recently received supplies of a high-quality DVD featuring films which vividly bring to life two of the LCCS case studies.

We believe that the use of these films will enhance the project by adding a new and exciting dimension to presentations.

The DVD also contains a two-and-a-half-minute "taster" film which has been uploaded to YouTube. See below for the link:

As LCCS is proven to boost public confidence in probation trust business and is a key community engagement tool for probation trusts, the national steering group, the Probation Association and the Magistrates' Association have advised probation trusts to upload this video to their websites. This can be easily achieved using the YouTube embed code.

A key communication tool is the website which is important for the general public to access for information about the project in their area and to provide a source of information and access to project material for LCCS members.

September 2010

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Prepared 27 July 2011