'Victims come first' vows West Yorkshire crime commissioner as new reoffending strategy launched

Former offender Jacob Hill, right, who set up the community interest company Offploy, was visited by Justice Secretary David Gauke last year.
Former offender Jacob Hill, right, who set up the community interest company Offploy, was visited by Justice Secretary David Gauke last year.

A police and crime commissioner has vowed that victims will always come first as he prepares to set out a new vision for tackling reoffending rates.

West Yorkshire PCC Mark Burns-Williamson said the two-year strategy, which is due to be launched in Leeds today, was the result of extensive consultation with criminal justice organisations, the private and third sector, and service users.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

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Among them is Jacob Hill, who was arrested in 2014 for drugs offences and sentenced to 28 months in prison.

Having found a mentor and investor following his release, he has since set up the community interest company Offploy.

It hires ex-offenders into its own teams and looks to support large organisations with designing and implementing hiring strategies that will do the same.

Mr Hill, who is from Brighouse, said: “As someone with a criminal conviction, it is great to see a strategy that really recognises the value in reducing reoffending and intervening before people enter a life of crime.

"It can change the lives of people wrapped up in crime, but also those who have suffered at the hands of it.

“While it may seem obvious that a reduction in reoffending will make society safer, to achieve this is far more complicated and requires a strategic approach.”

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The proven reoffending rate in West Yorkshire stands at 30.7 per cent, according to Ministry of Justice statistics that put the national figure at 29.4 per cent.

Mr Burns-Williamson said reducing that rate was central to his wider Police and Crime Plan.

“This new strategy aims to increase partnership working and focus on particular areas where the biggest benefits will be achieved for our communities,” he said.

“Victims will always come first and the strategy is by no means looking to reduce punishment for offenders.

“Rather, it aims to offer appropriate support and encourage them to become contributing members of the community, which will ultimately result in less crime and fewer victims.”

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The strategy’s key principles are building strong partnerships, early identification and intervention, targeting resources to make the most impact, and having clear support pathways.

It also focuses on female offenders and groups that are over-represented in the criminal justice system – care leavers, veterans, black and ethnic minority groups and those with learning difficulties.

Rokaiya Khan, chief executive of the Together Women Project for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Evidence has long shown that community interventions reduce costs within the criminal justice system, reduce reconviction rates, and reconnect women with local services, which can sustain progress they have made.”

It will all be underpinned by a new Reducing Reoffending Board set up to promote the strategy.