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Driving criminal justice devolution: Lessons for PCCs and Mayors

Report authors: Harvey Redgrave, Sophie du Mont, Sarah Kincaid, Callyane Desroches, Neil Blake Knox

Monday 19 March 2018

REPORT (PDF): Driving Criminal Justice Devolution: Lessons for PCCs and Mayors

Our new report explores how devolving more criminal justice powers to local leaders could help to build safer communities. This conclusion is based on two key arguments.

Firstly, the fiscal reality for the next decade and beyond means reducing demand through more joined-up working represents the best answer to the potentially intractable problem of high harm complex crime and shrinking budgets.

Secondly, elected Police and Crime Commissioners are accountable for police performance but increasingly recognise the police alone can not cut crime nor reduce the social harms it causes. PCCs need the powers to help them fulfil the “and Crime” in their job description.

That is the theory. This report seeks to turn it into practice by capturing the learning from nine months of work with four PCCs, representing different parts of the country. Inevitably, devolution will take different forms in different areas. Yet, as our report shows, it is possible to identify a series of common challenges and conditions for success. We hope it will provide a roadmap for other PCCs interested in making progress on devolution.

Principles underpinning reform:

Key findings


Our work with PCCs suggests that there are five conditions which need to be in place in order to drive forward justice devolution:

  1. Knowing what you want to achieve – the wider strategic objectives

  2. Knowing the local criminal justice picture – and what needs to change

  3. Knowing who is in the system: focus on people rather than structures, particularly the repeat offenders who drive demand

  4. Democratic accountability and robust governance

  5. Getting local buy-in for change

Next steps


Contracts between community rehabilitation companies responsible for some probation services and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) are in place until 2021 and what will follow this is not yet clear. Crest’s view is that areas should be actively planning now for what a good local system would look like once those contracts expire, and identifying the steps that can be taken within existing arrangements, such as joint commissioning and co-design, to help make progress along that trajectory. With robust proposals drawn up, PCCs and local partners will be much better placed by 2021 to make the case to MOJ for the need for more joined up and locally-led probation arrangements.

The options proposed in the areas we worked with reflected this staged approach to justice devolution:

Justice devolution is a means to achieving a vision, not the vision itself. At Crest, we believe that it provides a great opportunity for criminal justice services to become more localised, preventative and collaborative and to drive better outcomes for victims and communities.

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire


"Crest’s work on justice devolution has helped us to prioritise the areas upon which to focus our efforts for reform and improvement. Their analysis of the volumes and flows within the system has helped identify how our goals of ‘accessible’ justice, protecting victims and reducing reoffending can be achieved and our justice service improved. Crest worked with partners across the criminal justice system and provided findings specific to North Yorkshire’s circumstances. Alongside other workstreams, this has helped us develop a clearer future direction for local criminal justice, which will be better placed to serve our communities in the 21st Century."

Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for ​Avon and Somerset


"Crest have produced a really insightful report into Reducing Reoffending in Avon and Somerset. The analysis has helped identify a number of key issues and made some really helpful suggestions to take forward solutions. We feel this report has given us an excellent platform to have a real impact on reducing reoffending working collaboratively with MoJ and other partners."

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall


"It’s been an insightful journey into the Criminal Justice system working alongside Crest Advisory. They have helped us set our priorities with a greater national context and a stronger evidence base. One in particular has been around the issues that women offenders face, which I feel we would have missed without their help."

Dame Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria


"Crest Advisory approached me with a unique opportunity to join their project to explore how it might be possible to deliver justice in Northumbria differently. I asked them to focus on women and young people – as both victims and offenders. These groups were ones where having more local control might enable us to provide better support, to improve outcomes and ultimately to save money. They looked at our crime data and met with organisations already working in these areas to see what change would be most effective. As a result, agencies are already working more collaboratively to maximise the impact of what we do."


The UK's only consultancy dedicated to crime and justice.

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