Pioneering initiative to force offenders to get clean or face jail time

Criminals serving community orders for low level offences will be closely monitored by judges as part of a new pilot forcing offenders to clean up their acts or be put behind bars

  • judges to monitor progress of offenders serving community sentences
  • courts to direct drug and alcohol abusers to face addictions head on
  • part of tough new community sentencing approach to cut crime

The ‘Intensive Supervision Courts’ form part of a tough new community sentencing approach to tackle the root causes of offenders’ behaviour, help them change their ways and cut reoffending.

Through the pilot - launched in Liverpool and Teesside this week - when an offender is sentenced, the judge will order them to attend regular review meetings to check they are abiding by the requirements of their community sentence. Birmingham Magistrates’ Court will also be in the pilot focusing on female offenders and the underlying issues which drive their offending.

Offenders will also have access to specialist drug and alcohol treatment to help them tackle the substance misuse which could be driving their criminality.

At the same time, they will receive intensive supervision from the Probation Service which could include frequent and random drug testing.

They will also have support accessing education, employment and housing.

Failure to engage, continued substance misuse or refusal to attend the follow-on meetings with the judge could mean the offender faces increased drug testing or is sent to prison. Judges will also use privileges such as relaxing conditions to recognise good progress.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk MP KC, said:

"Clamping down on the root causes of addiction will help us combat the scourge of drug and alcohol-fuelled crime which costs the taxpayer £22 billion a year.

"This tough new approach is a tried and tested model that we know cuts crime and makes our communities safer."

The pilot, which forms part of the government’s 10-year Drug Strategy, and was made possible following the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act 2022, with a statutory instrument laid in Parliament last month to launch the 18-month pilot.

The pilot is based on evidence that approaches such as this can reduce reoffending. Similar schemes have already launched internationally and trialled in the UK, including successful initiatives in the West Midlands.

Studies show that getting offenders to confront their addiction through specialist support helps drive down their chance of committing further crimes. A US study on the long-term effect of a similar problem solving approach saw 25% fewer drug charges over a 15-year period.

Ben, 31, was handed a 3-year community sentence and was required to take part in a programme which uses some of the problem-solving elements that will also be used in the new Intensive Supervision Court pilot. He said:

"This sentence gave me the specialised care I needed to help me progress. My crimes were always about money and this community order was tailored to me, to allow me to work and make money legally – which stopped me falling off the rails.

"The training courses were an eye-opener for me. The courses I did saved me. Before those I could only work for £100 a day as a labourer, and this allowed me to earn more which helped me move away from getting money through crime.

"I’ve only been given two community orders, one when I was 19 and then the most recent one. I was never given a chance, but I could have gone through this and moved on and away from crime at 25."

Phil Bowen, Director for the Centre of Justice Innovation, said:

"These pilot courts offer a real opportunity to provide an intense, alternative sentence to custody for people whose offending is linked to substance use and other complex needs.

"The evidence suggests that, by combining wraparound supervision with regular judicial oversight which holds people and services to account, we can make a material difference to offending. These pilots allow us to test the effectiveness of these approaches in order to inform decisions on any potential wider roll-out."

Ministry of Justice
HM Prison and Probation Service
Alex Chalk KC MP