We spoke to Rachel Lawson, Violence Reduction Unit Coordinator with Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and Robert Bosson, Northumbria Police Chief Inspector (Prosecution & Victim Services), about the various diversion pathways which have been created.
Northumbria Police charge more than 12,000 cases a year, approximately 7,000 of these are for minor offences. To this end Northumbria Police and Northumbria Violence Reduction Unit has sought to build upon and expand on its use of diversion as a method towards providing more effective outcomes for individuals who commit minor offences and for those who are victims of crime.
Diversion and conditional cautions (CCs) are delivered via a number of pathways and are facilitated by local service providers, with many of them being devised and commissioned in conjunction with the Northumbria Police Violence Reduction Unit and coordinated via the TREAD team.
A conditional caution is not a conviction however it will appear on a criminal record. A conditional caution becomes spent three months after the date imposed. Successful completion demonstrates a positive response to the sanction and is regarded as less serious than a conviction from court. If an individual fails to meet the conditions of their caution, a review will be undertaken by the police to establish if formal court proceedings need to follow. Each pathway has a distinct time limit in which a subject must engage with the pathway.
Women’s Pathway – Women only
This is delivered by a local charitable organisation - Changing Lives - who provide holistic, trauma-informed, support to women. They run women’s community hubs across Northumbria for women involved in the criminal justice system and those at risk of offending. The hubs will help to address a wide variety of needs including, finance and benefits, substance misuse, accommodation, employment and domestic abuse, though this list is by no means exhaustive.
Veterans’ Pathway – Men only
Project Nova runs a veterans’ programme across Northumbria for ex HM Forces involved in the criminal justice system and those at risk of offending. NOVA co-ordinators understand the specific issues which veterans face, most are ex-veterans themselves. They offer support in referrals to a wide range of specialist agencies who can support the veteran in addressing their needs, for example; substance misuse, housing, welfare assistance, financial advice & support, anger management, domestic abuse, mental health support and employment support. This support will involve approaches which are known to be effective in working with this client group. Veterans must participate and complete an assessment of offending related needs at a location to be advised by project NOVA within 28 days of the CC being imposed.
Substance misuse pathways
There are two substance misuse pathways for those who have committed an offence whilst under the influence of alcohol:
- Alcohol Behaviour Change (ABC) Programme &;
- Triage assessment and alcohol/drugs brief intervention (drug related offences are referred straight into this pathway)
Police will complete an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) which is a ten question screening tool which will establish which pathway to follow an individual will follow Alcohol users with a score of 0-15 should follow the ABC pathway. Scores of 16 plus should follow the triage assessment and brief intervention pathway:
Alcohol Behaviour Change Programme (ABC) - Men (women can attend as a penalty notice for disorder (PND) for a drunk and disorderly offence)
Delivered by a local treatment provider, the ABC programme runs in a similar format to speed awareness courses. It is aimed at those who commit a drink related offence and who would benefit from an educational and motivational behaviour change course. The programme covers; how drinking affects your health, alcohol and the law and how alcohol fuelled situations can place yourself and others at risk. The aims of the course are to; support behaviour and attitude change towards alcohol and promote a healthier relationship with alcohol, support the reduction of further alcohol related crime and to reduce alcohol intake for the individual.
Triage assessment and alcohol/drugs brief intervention
This triage assessment intervention will diagnose and assess the severity of substance misuse in referred cases and identify appropriate treatment options. The assessment is undertaken during an interview by trained staff who work in a supportive, empathetic and non-judgemental way. The assessment is likely to go over an individual's pattern and level of drinking and/or drug taking, any physical and psychological health problems, social problems including levels of support and readiness and belief in ability to change.
The brief alcohol intervention, if appropriate, will be delivered at the same session as the assessment is undertaken, and is a motivational input involving advice about potential harms caused levels of drinking and/or drug use, reasons for changing behaviour; including health and wellbeing benefits and outlining practical strategies to reduce levels of drinking.
Victim Awareness Programme – Men only
The V-AWARE programme is an interactive and challenging experience which requires participants to think about the impact their offending can have on the victim and others. The programme also provides an introduction to dissidence and aims to increase motivation for an individual to stay crime-free.
18 to 24 year old specific intervention- Men only
Delivered by charitable organisation, NE Youth, this pathway is used to provide assessment for males, who are not veterans and whose offending behaviour is not linked to substance misuse but that require specific support around vulnerabilities. NE Youth provides a service across Northumbria to a cohort of males aged 18-24 who have committed crime as a result of socio-need and additional vulnerabilities.
Employment Pathway - The Recruitment Junction – Men only
This pathway offers specialist employability intervention to those individuals who would benefit from diversion from the criminal justice system and support around employment and training. Individuals referred to the pathway must have a National Insurance number, a fixed address and have been free of substance dependencies for a period of six months prior to referral.
Any ongoing support following acknowledged compliance with conditions is on a voluntary basis between the service provider and participant. In the majority of cases we find that participants continue to engage with the service provider and receive ongoing support to address their needs.
Each referral to the pathways begins with an email sent securely from the TREAD team to the single point of contact for each service provider containing brief details of the referral. Each of the service providers has different courses of action to progress the referral following this.
Evaluations, funding & the future
Due to the TREAD team and most of the diversion pathways only being set up very recently, there is no concrete evaluative data to present. However, evaluative reports will be available by summer 2022. Funding is secured on a 12 month rolling basis from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. Rachel and Robert explained that moving forwards they wish to develop more pathways which will have positive effects on people’s lives and get to the root causes of negative behaviours and issues.
Please click here to read more about Northumbria Police's TREAD team.
This case-study was compiled by Jason Watt in 2021