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The use of out-of-court disposals and diversion at the ‘front end’
Following our research into Covid-19 and the criminal justice system, Crest is undertaking further research to understand how out-of-court disposals can be used to reduce pressure on the courts - and deal more effectively with offenders.
A core finding from our research on the effect of Covid-19 on the criminal justice system is that it is in desperate need of better ways to manage offenders at the ‘front end’ of the system - reducing the flow of people into the courts. Our modelling, a ‘stock and flow’ model that looks at the criminal justice system as a whole, suggested that without any further action, the court backlog – defined as all cases waiting to be processed in the courts – is projected to rapidly increase and reach an unmanageable level by 2024.
This research project, funded by the Hadley Trust, is investigating the use of out-of-court disposals, including deferred prosecution and diversion schemes, to see how pressure can be lifted from the system and reoffending rates reduced.
What did we look at?
The first phase of the project brought together data, interviews with expert stakeholders and a review of literature to create a picture of the current landscape at the front end of the criminal justice system. A key part of this phase has been finding out how police forces use out-of-court disposals and provide information about them to the public.
What is best practice locally?
The second phase of the project consisted of a ‘deep dive’ into Thames Valley Police. Crest will hold interviews and focus groups with police officers and staff to gauge their views about out-of-court disposals and programmes to divert people away from the criminal justice system. In particular, we looked closely at drug diversion schemes for young people and adults pioneered by Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit. We wanted to understand the challenges of out-of-court disposals from those at the sharp end, establish where best practice lies and explore opportunities for improving their use, in order to reduce reoffending and the flow of people into the criminal justice system.
Do the public support increased use of out-of-court disposals?
The third, and final, phase of the project looked at public perceptions of out-of-court disposals and diversion - namely, are members of the public prepared to accept their expansion and what limits would they place on their use.
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