Problem Solving Courts Help Reduce Re-offending

New Problem Solving Courts (PSC) introduced in Stockport are being backed to reduce re-offending by the Safer Stockport Partnership (SSP).

Reducing re-offending is a key aim of the SSP, which includes Stockport Council, Greater Manchester Police and Stockport Probation Service, to ensure crime continues to fall in the borough.

The PSC are an integral part of the Community Justice Initiatives and offer an innovative way of dealing with the issue of re-offending. The new approach piloted in Stockport in 2010-11 and being introduced to boroughs across Greater Manchester, offers a way of tackling social exclusion that is often behind offending, in a way that reflects shared ownership of crime prevention amongst all the agencies.

Councillor Mark Weldon, Stockport Council’s Executive Member for Supporting Communities said: “We’re committed to using new and innovative approaches to reduce re-offending in Stockport. The PSC are modelled largely on the framework supporting the Community Justice Courts, bringing together the relevant agencies to commit resources to enable offenders to address issues affecting their involvement in crime. Offenders are sentenced within the existing sentencing framework without any special dispensations.”

The key distinguishing features of PSC are that the Probation Service co-ordinates the sentence planning meeting with the offender and other relevant agencies. This takes place in the court building on the day of sentencing.

Mohammed Farooq, Assistant Chief Executive, Stockport Probation Service, added: “Agencies commit themselves to specific actions in the sentence plan which is then presented to the court through a pre-sentence report. If accepted, the offender becomes subject to a community order with the usual requirements with the case reviewed by the Problem Solving Court every five weeks by the same sentencing bench. The offenders are then held directly accountable for the progress of their sentence to those who sentenced them. It provides an excellent way of reducing re-offending. We’re pleased to have played a key role in bringing this initiative to Stockport and making it work.”

Although, the new PSC has not been in use for a long period there have been some positive results for offenders. This includes gaining employment, increasing literacy and numeracy skills, reducing substance misuse, abstinence from alcohol, and improved social attitudes.

There are also significant achievements with people still serving their sentence, such as securing accommodation, stabilising tenancies, entering into mental health treatment services, completing reducing substances motivational programmes, and volunteering.