“Problem Solving Court”

  • 28/05/2014

A new initiative is to start on the 6th June at Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court. The aim is to identify women who may benefit from assistance from a number of external agencies. Appropriate ladies will be identified as suitable for the order which will last for either 6, 9 or 12 months.

Please see below for the Fact Sheet;-

The Problem Solving Court:

The theory and existing models:
If issues such as debts, health, parenting, housing and substance misuse were addressed and access to these services improved, this would result in reduced crime and reduced levels of social deprivation. Following a successful pilot (2011-12) at Stockport Magistrates Court the LCJB and the Judicial Issues Group (JIG) approved their role out across Greater Manchester, starting (2014-15) with Manchester & Salford and Bury & Rochdale Magistrates Court in the first instance.   Analysis of the cost benefit of the pilot in March 2012 found that for every £1 invested, £3.47 was returned to public sector organisations. The current time-line for implementation is June 2014.

The cohort – 81% of women sentenced to custody do not present a risk of harm to the public and often have a high level of mental health, domestic abuse, substance misuse and self harm needs, 50% of these women will serve sentences less than six months. The females will need to meet four of the following criteria to qualify as well as express a motivation to comply: OGRS 50%+; Accommodation; finances; (possibly ETE); drugs or alcohol; domestic violence; mental health; self harm; children services involvement; emotional well-being (i.e. struggling to cope with past abuse).

In November 2013, 262 cases were sentenced at MSMC and 29 cases meet the above criteria and have received short custody or a community order but there will be no requirement to engage with support services and there is no sanction for not doing so and they are likely to present back with the same issues in the future.

The Process-
Court appearance – female is identified as meeting the criteria by probation/court staff and presents as motivated to engage in a problem solving sentence, case is adjourned for three weeks and she is interviewed for her PSR at court

Sentence planning meeting – once a week, the core agencies will meet to discuss 6 cases (female will be required to attend and the agencies would have received case details ahead of this) Sentence plan is agreed, within which the objectives will serve to improve the females welfare needs and meet the agencies targets. (this will be at either TWP or a Manchester centre – fortnightly)

Sentencing – this will involve probation and court staff – the female will receive a problem solving court community order for 6,9 or 12 months. This is managed by a probation officer.

Six weekly reviews – this will only involve agencies who need to present concerns with the progress of the case, but all agencies will need to submit an update for this, there will need to be clear consequences for non compliance for the female

Completion/early progress de-registration –  this is an opportunity for agencies to record a successful completion, if the female and the agencies have achieved all of the objectives they have set – can be signposted to continue support on a voluntary basis.

If you have a client you feel may be suitable then please contact Fiona Deacon at the probation service who will be leading this initiative.