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New strategy to deliver step change for women in the justice system in North Wales


05 September 2022
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A new strategy, launched today, aims to help address the causes of female offending in North Wales and to make a genuine difference to women’s lives, reduce their involvement with the criminal justice system, and cut crime.

Building on the foundations of the Women’s Justice Blueprint for Wales and the work of existing organisations and partners across the region, the North Wales Women’s Justice Strategy has been designed by the North Wales Women in Justice Delivery Group in line with North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Andy Dunbobbin’s, pledge to deliver better support and outcomes for women in their experience of the criminal justice system. The strategy is the first of its kind at a local level in Wales.   

Women’s experience of the justice system is different from men’s, with higher reoffending rates. For example, 71% of women reoffend following custodial sentences of less than 12 months, compared to 63% of men. The cost of this offending and reoffending is also huge. The Ministry of Justice and HM Treasury estimate that female offenders cost the UK Government £1.7 billion, including £1 billion in police costs. The average annual cost of a women’s prison place in 2019-20 was £52,000.[1] Breaking this cycle of offending and reducing the effects that it has on the women involved, their families and the taxpayer, is an important reason behind the strategy’s approach.

Reflecting the Women’s Justice Blueprint for Wales, the key delivery priorities in the strategy are:

Early Intervention and Prevention

  • Working with local partners to tackle root causes of crime.
  • Diverting women, where appropriate, away from the criminal justice system and into women-centred, community-based, sustainable support services that meet their needs.
  • Exploring options for trauma-informed services which can best meet the needs of vulnerable women, and families, affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Courts and Sentencing

  • Building confidence in alternatives to short-term custody and remand.

Community Sentences

  • Supporting women, including those at risk of offending, to engage with services in the community.

Custody and Resettlement

  • Supporting women in custody and resettlement back into the community.

Systems and Governance

  • Ensuring systems are in place to enable effective delivery of the women’s agenda in North Wales.

Research and Evaluation

  • Further develop a Welsh evidence base in respect of what works for women and to better understand the distinct needs and vulnerabilities of women.

The overall aim of the new North Wales strategy is “supporting women to live crime-free, positive and healthy lives, improving well-being and making communities safer”. The new direction will build on the work of the joint Ministry of Justice and Welsh Government Women’s Justice Blueprint for Wales (2019), which aims to change services for women in the criminal justice system through a pan-Wales approach to help keep women and communities safe and free from crime.

Within the North Wales context, examples of how these priorities will be met include:

  • Working with courts and sentencers in North Wales to build understanding of community services available for women in the region to address offending-related needs among women and build confidence in alternatives to custody.
  • Progressing opportunities to strengthen the use of community sentence treatments for women in North Wales.
  • Considering current provision for women in prison from North Wales aimed at strengthening and maintaining links with children and families.
  • Working with the Blueprint team to develop a robust involvement model to ensure representation of the voices of women from North Wales.

The North Wales Women’s Justice Strategy can be accessed in full on the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner website here.

Andy Dunbobbin, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, commented: “Delivering justice for the women of North Wales is hugely important for me. When I was elected Police and Crime Commissioner, I set out a clear vision for a safer North Wales and I am working hard to deliver on behalf of our communities every day.

“One of my priorities is to deliver a fair and effective criminal justice system and the Women’s Justice Strategy is a product of what I set out to achieve. The strategy seeks to build on the great work that has been done to-date in this area and to revolutionise the development of services for women in the criminal justice system and to help keep women and communities safe and free from crime. I am proud that North Wales is the first area in Wales to develop this kind of strategy and I would like to thank all the partners who made it possible. It now time to put the strategy into action and deliver genuine change for the women of North Wales.”

Wayne Jones, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, commented: “The development of the North Wales Women’s Justice Strategy was an ambition outlined within the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan. This strategy for North Wales aims to accelerate service delivery so that we can create long lasting and sustainable changes to the current range of Women’s Justice services and address local needs in the region. By focusing on the key priorities, we want collaborative solutions that will allow better outcomes and justice for all across North Wales.

“The diversion away from criminality and the opportunity to rehabilitate are at the heart of the strategy. We have worked closely with the Women in Justice Blueprint team on developing it, and this is the beginning of a more focused approach with our Criminal Justice networks in North Wales.”

Helen Corcoran, T/Chief Superintendent, North Wales Police, said: “The North Wales Women’s Justice Strategy is an excellent opportunity to build on the work of the Women’s Justice Blueprint locally here in North Wales. It will enable partners and communities to continue to work together to improve services for women and help prevent them entering the criminal justice system.”

Emma Wools, Senior Responsible Officer for the Women’s Justice Blueprint in Wales and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales said: “The Women’s Justice Blueprint has made great progress over the last three years in improving outcomes and experiences for women in or at risk of entering the justice system in Wales, and I am thrilled to see North Wales delivering this vision within the local context. The new strategy will provide an opportunity to deliver services in a way that is responsive to the needs of the local population, and it is fantastic to see so many partners get on board.

“The Women’s Justice Blueprint team looks forward to continuing to work alongside our partners in North Wales to deliver on this important area of work and seeing the positive outcomes, which can be shared with other regions in Wales”.

The North Wales Women in Justice Delivery Group will oversee the implementation and delivery of the strategy’s aims. The group consists of eight representatives from across policing and criminal justice services, probation services and healthcare, and includes Deputy PCC Wayne Jones and T/Chief Superintendent Helen Corcoran.

The Delivery Group will provide oversight, direction and support to local partners and will meet on a quarterly basis to monitor and evaluate progress towards the aims of the strategy. Delivery Group representatives will be encouraged to update and report on their progress and barriers to achieving success. The Delivery Group will report progress to the North Wales Justice Board and will be represented at the All-Wales Women in Justice Board, which is the principal advisory group for matters relating to women in the criminal justice service in Wales.

[1] Data from NAO improving outcomes for women in the criminal justice system January 2022