Work to improve criminal justice
Partners in the courts, CPS, and probation services have been engaged in an intensive programme of reform in recent times to help modernise practice, improve court hearing timeliness, and deliver better support and outcomes for victims of crime. However the onset of Covid-19 has meant that we and our partners on the West Yorkshire Local Criminal Justice Board have faced new challenges to providing an effective criminal justice service. Backlogs at court have resulted in a greater number of suspects being held on remand for longer, which has increased pressure on the prison service. As the throughput of cases at court has stalled, many cases have had to be postponed. This has also meant a longer process for victims and witnesses, and although progress has been made to address this, it will be well into 2021 before cases are being moved through the system as swiftly as they should be. We continue to work to improve outcomes, and reduce the impact on victims and all those involved in the criminal justice system, but added delays can damage victims’ confidence in the system, and in some cases, lead to the loss of support for a prosecution.
In response to Covid-19, partners have acted to fast-track reform programmes to meet these substantial challenges head on. The rapid implementation of new working practices has been a great reflection of the strength of partnership working in West Yorkshire. Criminal justice partners have adapted to implement Covid-safe practices in court and custody spaces, and video-links have been established between prisons and courts for victim and witness use in appropriate cases. In the medium term, we will work to develop and implement a strategic criminal justice recovery plan; use new and existing data to understand the magnitude of the issues we face locally around cases; use these results to prioritise work appropriately; and enhance our services to victims and all criminal justice clients, keeping them informed and supported in appropriate and effective ways.
Beyond our response to Covid-19, we want to continue to work with the police and all our partners in West Yorkshire communities to prevent crime, safeguard those who are vulnerable, and to best support victims and witnesses. The criminal justice system includes a number of different organisations with different delivery arrangements who work together through the Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB). As Chair of the LCJB in West Yorkshire, I will work with the leads of these agencies to promote a whole system approach that allows us to target our resources to achieve the greatest benefit for all those in the system. By taking action earlier, we can prevent crime and stop people becoming victims in the first place. Where appropriate, I want to see more intervention to divert people away from entering the criminal justice system and address the drivers of offending to reduce the cost of crime in the long-term. This cost is not only a significant financial cost, but also a real and lasting cost to peoples’ lives and to those of their families.
I will ensure that we work better together by learning from our Covid-19 experience, and so develop our business models and pool resources in the most effective way for the people of West Yorkshire. I will also focus on achieving the best outcomes for those who find themselves in the criminal justice system, including young people, making sure victims and witnesses are at the heart of the services we provide. Transparency in equality, diversity and inclusion needs to underpin these processes, and I will continue to work to embed these values in our work across the criminal justice system.
As your PCC, I will also work closely with the Chief Constable to make sure that West Yorkshire Police is providing the level of service that communities deserve. I will encourage diversity to ensure that West Yorkshire Police‘s workforce reflects our communities, which will help to promote confidence in the police service’s legitimacy. I will support the development of those individuals who make up the police service and will make sure that their wellbeing is protected. I will also promote openness and transparency within West Yorkshire Police, ensuring that concerns and complaints raised by the public are heard and, where appropriate, reviewed by my office.
How we will deliver
- Listening to people. Listening to the needs of vulnerable people and victims of crime to support their journey in the criminal justice system. For example, delivering new facilities like West Yorkshire’s video-link hubs, which provide safe, victim-focused places for people to be interviewed or present evidence.
- Understanding our communities. Supporting the Chief Constable in building a police force which represents the communities it serves so people can have confidence in their police.
- Working together. Working with partners to develop and progress a strategic criminal justice recovery plan, learning from adapted business models to ensure new working practices are more efficient and effective than before, using the response to Covid-19 as a catalyst for change.
- Working together. Utilise and share new and existing data to understand the demands faced by the criminal justice system locally post-Covid. We will use the results to prioritise work appropriately and deliver a criminal justice service which supports and provides outcomes for victims, and helps rehabilitate offenders.
- Preventing and intervening earlier. Identifying and implementing best practice to reduce the real cost of crime in West Yorkshire, starting with a focus on prevention, intervention and desistance at the earliest opportunity, especially for young people.
- Improving our services. Regularly reviewing complaints against West Yorkshire Police and make sure that they are operating to national standards in all areas of police practice, and working with the Chief Constable to ensure police employee development and wellbeing continues to be a key priority.
- Improving our services. Through partnership efforts, continue to engage those involved in the criminal justice system, keeping them informed and supported in appropriate and effective ways, helping to maximise the chances of justice being achieved for victims, witnesses, offenders, and communities.
- Providing resources. Working together with criminal justice partners to collaborate more closely and pool resources where it is appropriate to target resources where they are most needed.