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Northumbria Ahead of the Game

12th March 2015

Northumbria is ahead of the game in ensuring Government plans to revise the criminal justice system are appropriate and instil confidence in communities, Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has said.

She was speaking about the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee’s Out-of-Court disposals (OOCDs) published on March 6 in which a key reform to introduce a scrutiny panel in each force area is already well underway in the force area.

“This has been on our agenda for a while as we want to ensure the best possible representation of knowledge and experience for our communities to ensure they have confidence in our legal process,” said Mrs Baird.

“I realise the importance of reducing the bureaucracy by having the simple, swift and proportionate responses to low-risk offending that OOCDs can provide police and know they allow officers to spend more time on frontline duties.

“However, it’s important people have confidence that their use is the correct one and we need a range of people with various backgrounds to ensure the decision made is the right one.”

Additionally the Commissioner has also instigated work to ensure a full and open scrutiny of the police.

Mrs Baird said: “We champion open scrutiny of the police and also have a rape scrutiny panel and an Independent Police Complaints Scrutiny Panel which ‘dip samples’ complaints made to the force to make sure these are dealt with correctly and effectively as well as looking to see where lessons can be learned.”

The Northumbria blueprint for the panel includes a member from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Magistrates, legal advisors and a representative from both the probation service and the Youth Offending Team

Each case is discussed by panel members with the collective findings reviewed and areas looked at including best practice and where things could be improved.

“One of the priorities of the region’s Police and Crime Plan is community confidence and by ensuring we have this panel, with a wide experience and background, we can begin to gain this confidence,” the Commissioner said.

Out of court disposals can include Fixed Penalty Notices; Penalty Notices for Disorder; Simple Cautions where the offender receives a formal warning from a police officer; Conditional Cautions or through Community Resolutions where the offender and victim are brought together.

The use of OOCDs has dropped since their peak in 2008 but they are not intended to use with serious offences and their use has been likened to a postcode lottery with areas using them in very different ways.

“I am pleased this report has recognised that changes need to be made and I am pleased we are ahead of the game in ensuring this happens in the Northumbria Police region,” the Commissioner said.