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Put Councils in charge of ex offenders

Shema Begum, of the Local Government Information Unit, on their proposals to localise criminal justice.

Responsibility for managing offenders sentenced to less than twelve months should be devolved to upper tier local authorities because national provision has failed and will continue to fail. This is the verdict of a three month inquiry conducted by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) in cooperation with the All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group (APPG).

During this inquiry sixty local authorities submitted written evidence and high profile commentators such as Charles Clarke (former Home Secretary), Lord Ramsbotham (former Chief Inspector of Prisons) and Louise Casey (Neighbourhood Crime and Justice Advisor) were grilled by a panel of MP's and academics. Their considerations are detailed in a report entitled Primary Justice which has been launched today.

Primary Justice means early intervention. It represents a clear break with current policy practice. Suggesting instead that constructive action must be taken to promote the views of victims, reduce re-offending and localise the responsibility for tackling crime.

Right now, the system is not listening to the public. The British Crime Survey (BCS) suggests that there are twice as many victims of crime than those presented in national recorded crime statistics. The
mismatch very obviously highlights not only a lack of faith but a systematic retreat from a system that caters for no-one.

The conventional system encourages re-offending. There are few incentives to desist from a life of crime.  Ex-offenders who have been given short sentences are left at the periphery of society after completing them.

A localised approach would enable communities to take control of the problems that they individually face. No two areas face identical problems and therefore there can be no single solution.

We need to satisfy victims; the ones who really suffer from a failing system. We need to reintegrate ex-offenders; to protect the public and ultimately reduce the incidence of crime. We need to encourage local areas to take responsibility for their offenders; applauding them for effective crime prevention initiatives. And we need to stop crime, before it starts.

Our report scrutinizes all of these issues and hammers in a longstanding desire for localisation in this area. It reflects a different perspective, one that empowers local communities and will restore faith in the criminal justice system. Politicians and practitioners should read it and adopt its findings or they will
continue to fail.


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