The Chair of the Out of Court Disposals Scrutiny Panel has published an annual report summarising the work of the Panel in 2017.
Out of court disposals (OoCD) allow the police to deal quickly and proportionately with low-level, often first-time offending which could more appropriately be resolved without a prosecution at court.
These cases are dealt with without the involvement of the courts. As such there is a public expectation that the police, who in such cases act as ‘judge and jury’, have some checks and balances in exercising that power and follow set guidelines and policies.
The OoCD Scrutiny Panel was set up to scrutinise Dorset Police’s use of such disposals, to ensure they are appropriate, proportionate, consistent with national and local policy, and consider the victims’ wishes where appropriate. It is one of several scrutiny panels administered by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to support the Police and Crime Commissioner in fulfilling his statutory responsibility to hold Dorset Police to account.
Dorset Police has seen multiple successes from a scheme funded by the OPCC, where high risk offenders voluntarily wear tags in a bid to stop re-offending.
The voluntary offender tagging scheme provides offenders with the opportunity to be fitted with a GPS tag for an agreed period while they are on probation or following their release from prison.
The tagging initiative is generally provided to offenders who have a disproportionately negative impact on communities from committing crimes such as theft and burglary. As well as deterring offending, in a few cases where bail conditions have been breached, evidence from the tags can help in court, saving the criminal justice system time and money.
It allows repeat offenders to build trust and prove their commitment to breaking the cycle of re-offending. The tag itself acts as a deterrent to stop temptation or to prevent their previous associates from trying to persuade them back into crime.
Imposing a tag as a condition of bail is currently not permitted. The early evidence indicates that this is an area worthy of further consideration.
The Police and Crime Commissioner visited Her Majesty’s Prison Portland.
The visit included a tour of the training and employment workshops aimed at rehabilitating offenders and helping them integrate back into society when they leave the prison.
He also viewed the Violence Reduction Hub and visited the security and evidence processing section.
The possibility of using the Collingwood Wing as a dedicated Veterans Hub is currently being explored.
A pilot scheme aiming to stop the revolving door of reoffending by vulnerable women is due to be launched in Dorset.
The scheme is led by The Footprints Project charity, who will work with women who have committed first time low-level crimes, helping them address problems such as mental health issues, domestic abuse, poverty and homelessness to reduce the risk of going on carry out more offences.
Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has welcomed plans to ensure the dignity of women in custody by providing free sanitary products.
In October 2018, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) from across England and Wales united to urge the Government to update legislation around the treatment of detainees held within police custody.
Now, working in partnership with the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) and following a consultation submission signed by each PCC and Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, the Home Office have confirmed proposals to improve menstrual care in police custody.
Police and Crime Commissioners from across the South West welcome the Government’s announcement that the supervision of thousands of offenders will return to the National Probation Service.
The five Police and Crime Commissioners serving Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire and Swindon have been lobbying the Ministry of Justice for a change to the model following concerns and a series of critical reports.
The Ministry of Justice began partially privatising the probation service in 2013, which involved 21 'community rehabilitation companies'.
In February, the community rehabilitation company serving the South West, Working Links, went into administration. Dame Glenys Stacey, the Chief Inspector of Probation, in March described the partial privatisation model as 'irredeemably flawed'.
Responding to today's Government announcement, Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill, said: “The decision to partially privatise this key public function was severely flawed, as demonstrated by the collapse of the Community Rehabilitation Company serving the South West earlier this year.
“My regional colleagues and I have argued for years that probation is far too important an issue to be placed into the hands of a network of private companies and I am glad the government has finally seen sense on this issue. We will now be working with the Ministry of Justice to make sure the service’s transition back into the public sector is as smooth as possible.”
A team of volunteers are helping to ensure the rights of those in police custody are respected and that they are being looked after properly.
The volunteers, known as Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs), make random, unannounced visits to check on the welfare and conditions of detainees, some of which may not have been charged with an offence.
Natalie Hill, Independent Custody Visitor, writes about her experiences as a volunteer looking into the dignity of people in police custody.
She writes: "I am 26 years old with a healthy social life, I work full time and I am proud to say that I also commit some of my time to volunteering. For the past two years, I have volunteered as an ICV for Dorset’s Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC).
"I want to tell you a little bit about why I choose to spend the odd Friday night in a police custody suite, rather than on a night out."
The PCC joined regional colleagues to convene a new board aimed at reducing reoffending.
Martyn Underhill said: “The revolving door of crime – in which people leave prison only to go onto carry out further offences – affects future victims and wider society.
“This is a complex problem which requires a joined-up approach and I am optimistic that the new board will bring together a wide group of agencies to find new regional and local ways of dealing with this issue.”