New agreement to join up London’s justice services
A new agreement to reduce reoffending and provide a more integrated approach to victims of crime in London was announced today by the Justice Secretary and the Mayor of London. They will work alongside local councils towards justice devolution and explore how to better join up local criminal justice services in the capital.
Together they will initiate a programme to tackle major challenges facing London’s criminal justice service, and ultimately devolve powers, and more authority and accountability for criminal justice from the Government to the capital.
Spending on criminal justice in London totals £3.3bn every year and is currently split across 14 different organisations at a national, regional and local level. With so many different bodies allocating funding at different levels, there are inevitably inconsistencies and duplication of work.
The Mayor of London, Justice Secretary and the capital’s Boroughs want to ensure London has the powers and funding to be able to join up and improve those services, so the capital’s justice system can:
- Tackle high rates of reoffending and ensure probation services are meeting the needs of London.
- Develop targeted policies to help reduce reoffending by young adults.
- Bring together elements of the support provided to witnesses before a trial with victim support services commissioned in London, to ensure victims are not passed unnecessarily between services.
To address those and other challenges, four key priority areas have been identified where a more joined up approach would strengthen the Criminal Justice Service for Londoners. They are:
- Reducing reoffending – at the moment 24 per cent of all offenders reoffend within one year of ending their sentence and reoffending costs London’s criminal justice system approximately £2.2bn a year. Probation services need to do more to protect Londoners from harm and ensure offenders are properly rehabilitated. This work will see a much greater role for the Mayor in delivering future probation services that meet the needs of London, and ensure that more is done to deter and rehabilitate offenders to break the cycle of crime. Work will also include exploring how prisons can be made safer whilst providing an environment that is more conducive to rehabilitation alongside services that resettle offenders on release.
- Victims and witnesses – work will aim to improve the experience for victims and witnesses from the point a crime is reported to the criminal conviction and beyond. Our ambition is to establish more integrated service for victims and witnesses where victim support would be provided by a single person rather than several agencies.
- A new approach to managing vulnerable cohorts in the criminal justice system – more women are sentenced to short custodial sentences in London than in the rest of the country, and the overall London youth reoffending rate of 47.5 per cent remains higher than the rate for England and Wales, which is 42.6 per cent. Work will explore how to reduce the number of women in custody, while also focusing on improving access to support services for women in prisons and ensuring there is sufficient investment in female offender services in the community. The programme will also look to reduce the number of young Londoners who are locked up away from their families and communities and investigate the commissioning of a new secure institution for London’s young offenders.
- Financial devolution – ways will be explored of providing the financial mechanisms and incentives that allow London to invest more in preventative services. Work will include exploring opportunities for the devolution of custody budgets for certain groups of offenders, to help reduce the demand on the criminal justice system.
A new board led by senior representatives of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, Ministry of Justice and London Councils will oversee work related to today’s agreement. The London Justice Devolution Board will ensure that the key objectives are being met.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “By joining up local services I believe we can increase support for victims of crime and reduce the rate of reoffending in London, helping make our communities safer. This agreement will ensure that decisions about justice services in London prioritise the interests of Londoners, and it is an important step towards the devolution of powers over criminal justice in our city.”
Justice Secretary, David Gauke, said: “This is a significant step towards greater autonomy and accountability for London and a sign of this Government’s deep commitment to devolution.
“London faces unique challenges and opportunities – almost 20% of all offenders live in the capital and it spends more than £3billion delivering criminal justice.
“So it is right that we work in close partnership with London’s regional authorities to reduce crime, stop people reoffending and look after victims.
“I envisage this as the first step towards a model where London’s authorities play a much more active role in managing offenders – particularly those who require the most comprehensive support.”
Councillor Lib Peck, London Councils’ Executive member for crime and public protection, said: “Today’s agreement is an important step towards creating a more integrated criminal justice system for London.
“The MOU represents welcome progress towards devolving power locally, which will support London boroughs in our commitments to reduce crime and improve the safety of our communities.
“Close collaboration between central, regional, and local government is also essential for improving services, so we’re pleased to be working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the Mayor to ensure this happens.”