Winning the fight to reform offenders

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PROBATION chiefs in Sunderland today insisted they were winning the battle to reform criminals despite a new report claiming the city has some of the highest rates of reoffending in the country.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show that 16.3per cent of criminals in the city re-offended within three months, with the numbers rising.

It is estimated Sunderland has undergone a 2.74per cent increase in reoffending.

However, bosses at Northumbria Probation Service, maintained they were winning their fight to break the cycle of crime.

Kevin Robinson, Head of Offender Management in Sunderland, said: “Reducing reoffending is one of the key goals of the criminal justice system, as well as protecting the public, communities and victims of crime.

“In Sunderland, while the actual reoffending rate remains higher than the predicted rate and there has been an increase in the last quarter, overall there has been a reduction in re-offending since April 2000.

“The actual reoffending rate for April 2009 to March 2010 was 4.02per cent above predicted, reducing to 2.74per cent Oct 2009 to September 2010.

“This demonstrates progress in reducing reoffending in the city.”

The national service has also been singled out for praise by the MoJ.

Mr Robinson said: “As with many areas, it is a small proportion of the population who commit the most crime. In order to challenge the complex factors which contribute towards this, it is necessary to take a partnership approach. This combines resources and expertise and ensures crime is being tackled on a number of fronts.

“Reducing reoffending and rehabilitating offenders involves a number of complex issues which cannot be simply calculated. What is clear is that through a partnership approach we are making a real and sustainable impact on reducing reoffending and tackling the most frequent offenders across in the city.”

The statistics showed that all parts of the North-East suffered higher rates of reoffending by criminals than the national average.

The increases are in comparison with three years ago, when the MoJ first began collecting “snapshot” statistics for each local probation service.

Durham recorded 12.25per cent rate of reoffending, a 2.71 per cent drop since 2008.

The figures - measuring the proportion of criminals who reoffend with three months in each area - are based on a sample of, typically, about 2,000 to 3,000 people.

The sample includes those who have committed a variety of crimes, as well as people judged to be at low, medium and high risk of breaking the law again.

An MoJ spokesman described the overall fall in reoffending since 2007-08 across England and Wales - a decline of 1.47 per cent - as “encouraging”.

However, he added that there was still work to be done, with 9.77per cent of criminals, overall, re-offending within three months.

“Probation Service staff carry out extremely valuable work to protect the public, reduce re-offending and support victims,” he said. “They play a vital role in helping to cut crime.”