Project lead, DS Sandy Thompson spoke to us about Birmingham’s C3 programme and how it works.
C3 refers to the Crime Free Community Desistance Programme which is offered jointly by West Midlands Police (WMP), National Probation Service (NPS), Staffordshire and West Midlands CRC (SWM CRC) and other partnership agencies. This intensive rehabilitation programme targets prolific, non-violent adult residential burglary offenders who are trapped in a cycle of addictions, crime and prison. It provides participants with a realistic opportunity for change which is achieved via a strong support and mentoring network from the police, probation and a number of other partner agencies over a three-year period. Although not court-based, the C3 programme incorporates key features of the problem-solving approach with the combined use of multi-disciplinary community services with regular reviews. While judicial oversight does not feature during the programme and offenders are not subject to court-based reviews, the innovative use of the deferred sentence ensures that offenders must maintain compliance or risk being breached and re-sentenced.
The offender, who would have received a prison sentence of two years or more for their offence if subject to traditional proceedings, instead receives a bespoke and flexible rehabilitation programme. The aim of the programme is to safeguard the public by reducing reoffending rates, recover stolen property and provide an opportunity for individuals to apologise to their victims.
How it works
Eligible offenders are given a comprehensive assessment, as well as the opportunity to admit previous offending as a demonstration of their desire to change. Individuals must also demonstrate their motivation through engagement in reparation activities and restorative justice. The key principles of C3 are victim involvement, participant involvement, motivation and honesty, and compliance. Participants who do not engage in all aspects of the programme face the possibility of being breached and re-sentenced as a result of non-compliance. Victim support for the programme is high, with most stating that they are happy their perpetrators are getting support to prevent further victims.
The programme is intensive and requires huge commitment from participants. Those participating have complex needs and require a great deal of support. Once accepted onto the programme, offenders are given a deferred sentence. During the first six months of the programme offenders must comply with ‘bail’ conditions. Their progress is monitored and if initial behaviour is positive then a community sentence is recommended that encompasses the programme conditions. The community order can be imposed for up to three years and participants must engage in all aspects.
The community sentence plan is tailored to each individual’s needs and personal circumstances, and includes elements such as drug and alcohol treatment, offending behaviour programmes, medical, psychiatric or psychological treatment, education, training and employment (ETE) support, reparation and restorative justice. Offenders must comply with probation and may be required to agree to GPS tracking, sobriety tagging, curfew and unpaid work.
Successful participants who do not reoffend for the duration of the three-year programme avoid a prison sentence. Through intensive support, they are given the opportunity to address their issues and change break the cycle of addiction and offending that they have been trapped in.
Outcomes and challenges
One of the project leads, DS Sandy Thompson states that a key element to the success of the programme is its simplicity, which comes from open communication between the various agencies as well as ensuring that each team is clear and upfront about their customised support strategy with each participant from the outset. He reports a 60-70% success rate for programme participants over a three-year period since it began, with an added benefit of saving the court both time and money as a result of removing these prolific offenders from the revolving door.
The scheme is not without its challenges, with DS Thompson reporting that housing is one of the biggest issues due to the shortage of suitable council housing, as well as the lack of a single point of contact within the judiciary who could oversee the court hearings and act as a champion for the scheme. However, there is good support for the programme in the area which has recently expanded to include courts in Wolverhampton, Leamington and Coventry.
This case study was compiled by Suzanne Smith in 2020