Suffolk’s Diversion Programme is a county-wide scheme that has its roots in a pilot scheme, Enhanced Triage, which ran for 8 months in Northern Suffolk from 2015. Enhanced Triage was a pre-court disposal model that put responsibility for decision making regarding pre-court outcomes jointly in the hands of Suffolk Youth Offending Service (SYOS) and Suffolk Constabulary. Following a successful evaluation by the University of Suffolk, complete with a cost avoidance calculation by the Centre for Justice Innovation, the programme was rolled out. The Diversion Programme was itself evaluated in December 2017, with largely positive results.
Key outcomes the Diversion Programme is designed to deliver include: more efficient and effective targeting of resources at an early stage; elimination of unnecessary criminal justice system processing of young people; significant improvements in the life prospects of young people involved in offending behaviour, victims, and the community; targeted assessment to identify the appropriate cohort; and increased use of restorative approaches to reduce conflict and re-offending.
Crucial to the success of Suffolk’s Diversion Programme has been the close working relationship and effective communication between YOS and the police. Clear guidelines setting out police and YOS communication for the Enhanced Triage pilot and subsequent Diversion Programme – enabling joint, informed, and consistent decision making – was arrived at collaboratively, and refined following a pilot in one force area. This close working relationship has remained in force following the roll-out.
The diversion crime outcome
The programme has a number of potential outcomes depending in the severity and history of offending (diversion non-crime, community resolution, diversion crime, and caution). In the interests of minimising criminal justice system involvement, and the long-term harm this can bring, our focus here is on the diversion crime outcome. This outcome is an informal measure and crucially offences are non-recordable (the case is marked No Further Action), meaning they will not show up on the young person’s criminal record.
In brief, the route to a diversion crime outcome and intervention is as follows: a child or young person (aged 10 to 17) is arrested, the police decide they will consider an out of court disposal, a PENY is issued, SYOS staff screen the PENY and determine the eligibility criteria have been met, the case is designated level 1 or 2 (with a full Asset Plus undertaken for level 2 cases, and tailored voluntary interventions are delivered.
The diversion crime strand has in-built flexibility, meaning as many appropriate cases as possible are captured. For example, it covers offences with a gravity score of 3 or below, or those with a higher gravity score where there are mitigating factors.
A tailored approach
The Diversion Programme is structured to allow practitioners to respond appropriately to the behaviour and needs of the child or young person while addressing the impact of their behaviour on, and the needs of, the victim(s) and community. It is grounded in a clear assessment of offending risk factors and re-offending reducing protective factors.
There are two levels. In level 1 cases, there is a low risk of re-offending, and the intervention will last up to 6 weeks. In level 2 cases, there is a medium to very high risk of re-offending, and the intervention can last up to 12 weeks (and can be extended to 26 weeks in rare circumstances). A restorative approach features prominently in the Diversion Programme, with a full restorative justice service offered to all victims and restorative work for level 2 cases allocated to specially-trained Restorative Justice Practitioners.
Thanks to Simon Bramford, Operational Manager at Suffolk YOS (Northern area), for helping us draw this case study together and for hosting Claire Ely, our Practice Innovation Officer, and Jo Thomas, Head of Innovative Practice, when they visited the programme last year.