Researching Criminal Justice
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Bail is a fundamental human right which measures society’s democratic credentials. Taken alongside an increasing prison population, there is an urgent need to find alternatives to custodial remands which do not increase risks to the community. This important book evaluates a bail support scheme called the Effective Bail Scheme (EBS), which was the first such scheme directed at adults, and places its findings in the context of bail law and practice. Based on up-to-date research, this book will make a valuable contribution to an under-researched area and provide useful insights for policy makers and practitioners.
The chapter summarises the main findings of the evaluation and draws some conclusions about the future of bail support schemes for adults.
A total of 655 defendants were supervised by the EBS scheme up until the end of June 2008. The take-up rate, in terms of the proportion of EBS proposals made to courts, was quite high. However, the EBS did not meet its target of 600 commencements per year outlined in the original bid to the Treasury Invest to Save Budget (ISB). Some of the defendants on the scheme were likely to have been destined for a custodial remand suggesting that bail support schemes can divert defendants from custody. There are indications that there may be some scope for increasing numbers on the scheme by widening the criteria by which defendants are selected so that the number of proposals made to courts increases. The risk of this approach is that net-widening will occur. There is already some evidence that the EBS was used for defendants who would not otherwise have been remanded in custody. The evidence comes from a number of sources. First, some defendants on the EBS were charged with less serious offences which would not normally result in custodial remands. Second, a proportion of the defendants on the scheme had limited offending and bail histories. Third, a significant number of defendants were re-bailed to the EBS after alleged offending on bail or breaching conditional bail including EBS. Fourth, a significant minority of the sentences imposed were fines or discharges.
The Effective Bail Scheme (EBS) was a bail support scheme for adults which operated in the Yorkshire and Humberside region between 2006 and 2010. It was originally set up as a pilot in six courts (Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Scarborough, Sheffield and York). The scheme was phased in between November 2006 and February 2007. During 2007 the scheme was expanded to several small courts covering rural areas in the region including Bingley in West Yorkshire. In late 2007, the scheme was expanded again to cover three further courts in North Yorkshire (Harrogate, Skipton and Northallerton (HSN). The courts were selected specifically to test the suitability of operating bail support schemes in urban and rural areas. This chapter describes the governance and staffing structures of the EBS and discusses some of the issues which arose with these aspects of the scheme. Before this, the role of the Bail Information Pathfinder (BIP) is discussed.
Alongside the EBS, the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Offender Manager commissioned a pilot bail information scheme funded by the national Pathfinder initiative (Brown et al, 2008). The scheme began in November 2006 and ran alongside the EBS. Although, the BIP was a separate initiative with a different funding source, its role as gatekeeper to the EBS was crucial. It basically assessed defendants’ suitability for the EBS making it impossible to separate the impact of one scheme from the other.
The BIP identified defendants at risk of custodial remands prior to their first court appearance and interviewed them to ascertain information relevant to the remand decision.
This chapter explores the work of the EBS. It first discusses the assessment process before going on to examine the work undertaken by the EBS while defendants were on the scheme including the provision of support through mentoring. It primarily draws on data collated from bail support files with mentoring information being collected from records compiled by SOVA.
All defendants should have had their needs assessed while on the EBS. Two assessment tools were used: a needs assessment which should have been completed for all defendants and a housing assessment completed for those with identified housing needs. The majority of defendants (n=585, 89%) had their needs assessed by one or both of these tools. Over two-fifths (n=290, 44%) of defendants had both needs and housing assessments completed which involved some duplication of resources. There was also evidence that defendants’ needs were sometimes missed and discrepancies existed between the two types of assessments, suggesting that they could be rationalised into one assessment tool. This would ensure also that all the needs of defendants are assessed. This is important because in nearly a fifth (n=103, 16%) of cases in which an accommodation need was identified during a needs assessment no housing assessment was undertaken.
Most defendants on the EBS were identified as having a wide range of needs. Their identified needs were typical of offender populations (SEU, 2002). In terms of drug use, in just over two-fifths (278, 42%) of cases defendants were identified as having drug issues. This raises questions about the efficiency of the Drug Interventions Programme (DIP) generally but particularly RoB which should have resulted in very few drug using defendants being on the EBS (see Hucklesby et al, 2007).
This chapter provides details of the design of the evaluation and methodology employed. It examines the aims and objectives of the evaluation before providing details of the ways in which data were gathered.
The overall aim of the evaluation was to assess the impact of the Effective Bail Scheme (EBS) together with the Bail Information Pathfinder (BIP) on custodial remands, court attendance rates, compliance with bail conditions, offending on bail and the provision of low risk accommodation, as well as to assess the costs and benefits of the bail schemes particularly in terms of prison places. The evaluation aimed, also, to examine partnership working between NOMS and the voluntary sector and to identify effective practice in relation to the provision of bail schemes. The evaluation was funded and overseen by the Ministry of Justice.
The evaluation was an implementation and process evaluation which had the primary aim of improving the operation of the bail schemes and took the form of action research. In addition, monitoring data were collected to assess the interim outcomes of the scheme. The original intention was to include an outcome and economic evaluation but this was deemed not to be viable by the funders. The more specific objectives were to:
examine the implementation process for EBS;
identify effective practice in terms of implementing EBS;
identify the role of BIP in the EBS process;
describe the BIP and EBS process and produce process maps;
examine the operation of EBS and BIP (where applicable) including assessment and referral mechanisms and the provision of bail support;
The EBS had a number of aims including reducing the incidence of breaches of bail conditions, failure to appear for court hearings and offending on bail. This chapter examines findings in relation to these aims as well as in terms of compliance with bail support. It also explores the outcomes of bail support periods. Data were collated from bail support files so it only includes incidents known to the EBS and is likely to underestimate the non-compliance events. Just over half (n=354, 54%) of EBS cases ended when defendants were sentenced. In other cases, bail support periods were completed when defendants were breached (n=95, 27%), allegedly committed new offences (n=89, 13%), or because their bail was varied (n=79, 12%).
Two-fifths (n=267, 41%) of defendants were not known to have been breached or offended on bail while on the EBS. Three-fifths (n=388, 59%) of defendants either breached their bail conditions or were charged with an offence on bail. A tenth (n=34, 10%) of the group breached bail support, other conditions and had been charged with an offence committed while on bail while a fifth (n=74, 19%) had breached either bail support or other conditions and allegedly offended while on bail. A tenth (n=36, 9%) of defendants on EBS had breached both bail support and other conditions, but were not known to have offended while on bail. The mean time to breach of bail conditions was around a month. The mean time to alleged offending on bail was 42 days.
Half (n=328, 50%) of defendants were known to have breached their bail conditions.
This chapter focuses on interviewees’ views about the EBS. It draws on interviews with stakeholders, workers and defendants which took place in the early stages of the pilot. The interviews reflect the position at a time when the EBS was still being implemented and after which changes were made in order to improve its operation. Nevertheless, interviewees’ views were generally positive, supporting the establishment of the EBS.
Most interviewees viewed the implementation of the scheme as a success at the time they were interviewed. The views of those closely involved in the scheme were summed up by one interviewee who commented: “It is set up, it is running and it has got the sort of caseload that we hoped … and it has done so without any negative comments.” At this stage, success was viewed in terms of implementing and operating the scheme and reaching target numbers. Interviewees viewed the considerable time and effort put into the development of the scheme prior to implementation as crucial to its success along with the phased introduction of the scheme across the courts. Interviewees also noted that accommodation had been sourced and that more defendants than planned had been accommodated with low levels of damage to property and very few major incidents. Indeed, most interviewees reported that compliance with the scheme was higher than they had expected. The fact that most interviewees had received no complaints or negative feedback about the scheme was also viewed as an indicator of success. As one interviewee noted, “silence is a good sign”.
The Effective Bail Scheme (EBS) operated in ten courts in Yorkshire and Humberside between 2006–10. It was originally funded from the Treasury Invest to Save Budget which funded innovative projects which forged partnerships to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of public services. It provided bail support for adult defendants to divert defendants from custodial remands, increase court attendance rates and compliance with bail conditions and reduce alleged offending on bail. The scheme provided accommodation and used volunteer mentors. The research relating to the process evaluation of the Effective Bail Scheme pilot was funded by the Ministry of Justice.
Inevitably for a project of this kind which included an action research element, practices and procedures evolved and developed during the life time of the project. This report provides a snapshot of the scheme during the first 18 months of its operation between November 2006 and June 2008 after which the scheme moved on and developed further until it ended in June 2010. The purpose of this book is to provide a comprehensive picture of the operation of the EBS project in its first 18 months using quantitative and qualitative data. Before exploring the evaluation findings in detail in subsequent chapters, this chapter provides an overview of the prison remand population and bail law and practice with the aim of contextualising later discussions about the EBS and the provision of bail support more generally.
This chapter examines data relating to the operation of the EBS and its component parts between its implementation and the end of June 2008. It explores take-up of the scheme and the caseload of the EBS in different court areas throughout this period. The second part of the chapter examines the demographic characteristics of defendants as well as their current offences and offending and bail histories. It also explores differences in these factors between defendants who were bailed to the EBS and those who were remanded in custody in order to begin to understand why some proposals for bail support failed. Data presented in this chapter were gleaned from bail information and bail support records.
Figure 4.1 provides details of the process which resulted in 658 defendants being bailed with EBS. Bail information officers initially identified 1,417 defendants who may have been eligible for the EBS because they were detained in police custody while awaiting their first court appearance or because they had been remanded in custody at an earlier hearing.
In over a third (n=523, 37%) of cases no proposal for bail support was submitted to the courts. Three-quarters (n=398, 76%) of this group were deemed to be either unsuitable, ineligible or both for the EBS. There is some overlap between the two categories. In terms of unsuitability, the most frequently cited reasons were that defendants had no support needs (n=22), there were concerns about manageability (n=15) or no suitable accommodation was available (n=12).
This chapter describes the situation in residential care in the case study of the local authority in the United Kingdom at the time of the field research, reflecting on the changes observed since research was undertaken in the same local authority in the mid-1990s. It considers comments made by care staff during the course of this field research, along with documentary evidence and observation. Other research has tracked the changes in the residential care environment by revisiting children’s care homes. This can be a useful way of identifying how policy and practice influences the everyday living environment of children in residential care. After explaining the nature and context of children’s residential care in this local authority, the chapter outlines the approach taken in the research and the range of data collected in the research. It also tackles issues related to the education of children in care, their health and wellbeing and behaviour management. Finally, it examines the decision to introduce a restorative justice approach into residential care in the local authority.