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Community sentence re-offending figures a cause for alarm

ALMOST half of all criminals handed a community sentence go on to commit further crimes, new figures have shown.

ALMOST half of all criminals handed a community sentence go on to commit further crimes, new figures have shown.

Data uncovered by Wearside MP Bridget Phillipson shows that in recent years many of those given softer sentences rather than prison stays commit further violent attacks, thefts and drug-related crimes with 12 months of their punishment.

Despite some signs of improvement, more than 40% of those handed the chance to avoid jail are going on to re-offend.

In the Northumbria area hundreds of public order and violent crimes are being committed by those who failed to learn their lesson.

Already police commissioner Vera Baird has met with probation chiefs to see how they will cope with difficult Government spending cuts.

Drug, theft and violent crime are the main repeat offences committed for some age groups.

And with cuts to prison services, probation services and further police budget reductions, some are warning it may get even harder to keep people out of trouble.

This month Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed she will continue with cuts set to wipe 20% off Northumbria Police’s budget.

And Houghton and Sunderland South MP Ms Phillipson has said the situation could get worse as a result of further Government cuts.

Ms Phillipson, who sits on the influential Home Affairs select committee, said the probation service is calling out for clarity over what future it faces.

She said: “I welcome the figures showing that overall re-offending was down between 2006 and 2010. I’ve seen first hand the excellent work probation staff in Northumbria do to keep us safe. Their work with offenders is vital in addressing the root causes of offending.

“However, we need to maintain this progress as re-offending blights communities and makes residents fearful.

“Cutting rates of re-offending goes hand in hand with tackling crime. However, this crucial work is under ever greater pressure as the impact of a 23% cut to the Ministry of Justice budget is felt and an estimated 10,000 prison and probation staff lose their jobs.

“The Government must act soon to publish its delayed consultation into the future of the probation service to clear up the uncertainty which exists in its plans.”

Figures show an overall reduction in re-offending by men of 5.7% and 1% by women between 2006-2010 in the Northumbria Probation Trust area.

But of the 4,711 people handed community punishments in the most recent count, some 2,051 went on to re-offend.

Already the issue has been raised with probation chiefs by the region’s most senior police commissioner, Ms Baird.

She said: “Although I don’t have a sentencing role or responsibility for the probation service who manage offenders, I met the chief executive of Northumbria Probation Service last Friday.

“There seems an obvious link between them and the police in relation to this very issue. We had a good discussion across a range of issues and I made clear that I take repeat re-offending very seriously and that it will remain high on my agenda in the new year when I will be out taking the public’s views on the policing and crime plan and hearing their experiences of what has worked and what has not in their local communities.”

Re-offending rates are also high for those who served a prison sentence. Figures released in October showed one in four offenders from the North East went straight back to crime and committed 26,000 offences.



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