Hundreds of female criminals including thieves and drug users will be spared jail under a pilot scheme to tackle reoffending
- Shoplifters, drug users, thieves and low-level female offenders spared jail
- Move to help 1,000 female criminals over two years launched by Sadiq Khan
- Research found women more likely to reoffend than men after a short sentence
Hundreds of women criminals are to be spared jail under a pilot scheme to tackle reoffending.
Shoplifters, drug users, thieves and low-level offenders will instead be referred to specialist services for help with mental health problems and substance abuse.
The move to help 1,000 female criminals over the next two years has been launched by London Mayor Sadiq Khan after research found women are more likely than men to be sent to prison for a first-time offence.
Shoplifters, drug users, thieves and low-level offenders will instead be referred to specialist services for help with mental health problems and substance abuse (file image)
Women are also more likely to reoffend than men after a short prison sentence for a low-level offence such as theft or criminal damage, according to research.
Mr Khan has launched the scheme in four London boroughs as he believes the lack of a women’s prison in the capital means female offenders are taken further away from their families and support networks.
When they are arrested, women who have committed non-violent crimes such as shoplifting, low-level criminal damage such as graffiti or minor public order offences will be offered an ‘out-of-court disposal’.
Under this form of dealing with crime without the need for a prosecution, offenders will still receive a conditional caution that would be present on their criminal record for six years.
They will be required to attend appointments with a women’s centre and warned that failure to attend could result in prosecution for the original offence.
Specialist staff will ‘assess the needs’ of the criminal and offer ‘long-term support to address the causes of her offending’.
For example, they may be referred to mental health services, a domestic abuse organisation or receive help to deal with substance misuse.
Only non-violent female offenders who have admitted their guilt will be considered to participate in the pilot.
The scheme in the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark follows similar pilots in Humberside, West Midlands and Durham.
Ministry of Justice figures show that female offenders cost the Government about £1.7billion a year.
Only non-violent female offenders who have admitted their guilt will be considered to participate in the pilot (file image)
Similar plans by the Liberal Democrats to stop jailing many women criminals were condemned last month by former Tory policing minister Sir Mike Penning.
‘Everyone’s in favour of rehabilitating prisoners but this is utter lunacy from Jo Swinson’s party,’ he said.
‘How can you jail a man for a particular offence but not a woman?’
Sophie Linden, London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, said: ‘This pilot builds upon programmes carried out across England which have shown that through targeted support we can reduce the rates of women reoffending after their prison sentence.’
Dr Kate Paradine, of the charity Women in Prison, says: ‘The only way to tackle the crisis in our criminal justice and prison system is by addressing the root causes of crime in our communities.
‘Investing in women’s centres and diversion services is a vital first step to addressing this and will form essential part of London’s “whole system” approach.’