Sean Duffy says we need to focus on the reasons for crime itself, not only the outcome of crime
Last year, 91.3% of our customers who had experienced our New Routes Mentoring did not receive a future prison sentence.
On Wednesday of this week the Criminal Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament will overwhelmingly embrace a discussion on the role that preventative spend, and action can have on reducing the number of victims of crimes. The work of Victim Support Scotland is phenomenal in the justice plot line, and we equally play a critical ‘lead role’ in ensuring offender desistance and behavioural change in any justice story line.
Unlike previous debates, the new dialogue extended to the notion that in many cases, for example lower-level crimes, Scottish courts could be encouraged to make rehabilitation rather than punishment a primary consideration when sentencing in future.
As we collectively consider how the future care system in Scotland should function and what a new strategy for our progressive approach to justice should be, we need to focus on the reasons for crime itself, not only the outcome of crime.
There will always be victims of crime because no crime is victimless. It is our objective, in this modern democracy and as part of a solid approach to community safety and health, to dilute the potential for more victims. We can do that because our mentors work with individuals to identify the reasons for offending to ensure that they can leave prison behind. There is a notion that once you get into crime you ‘graduate’ and those committing lower-level crimes (less than four years) can often be on a roundabout and so the right intervention towards prevention is key to diluting the potential for more victims.
2021 began with more discussions about how the necessary public health restrictions introduced since the Covid-19 outbreak had significantly impacted upon the justice system. Even though the year began with strong support for ‘pivoting’ and finding new ways to do things, few major changes to the ‘restorative justice’ or ‘victims’ agenda have made it out of the idea ‘library’.
Writing a new chapter to address the Covid fuelled backlog of Community Payback Orders (CPOs) seemed an obvious place to start. We knew a solution had to be remote and our understanding of why our customers have offended allowed us to build a rehabilitative CPO-Connect digital approach to the unpaid hours element of CPOs, at the same time diluting the likelihood of re-offending.
The truth is, hopefully summed up in the committee meeting on Wednesday, hurt people, hurt people. Understanding why someone has offended is something that should unite both bookends of this unwritten book-shelf. For those that want to see less victims, and for those that want to see less re-offending, showing that Scotland can not only set progressive ambitions, but that we can achieve them will be absolutely crucial.
Sean Duffy is chief executive of the Wise Group