The PCSC Bill covers a wide range of community safety issues and seeks to introduce measures which aim to have an impact on victims of crime, those who perpetrate crimes, and wider community safety.
- The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill covers a wide range of community safety issues and seeks to introduce measures which aim to have an impact on victims of crime, those who perpetrate crimes, and wider community safety.
- Councils will continue to play their important role, alongside the police and partners, in protecting our communities and ensuring they are safe places to live.
- Part 2 of the Bill seeks to place a new statutory duty on local authorities and wider partners to collaborate and plan to prevent and reduce serious violence. We support taking a public health approach to tackle serious violent crime, and this must be matched with adequate investment in early intervention and prevention.
- The LGA has consistently argued that for some areas, issues such as domestic abuse rather than public space violent crime are the main local forms of serious violence and that there needs to be flexibility for councils should to apply the duty appropriately for their areas. It is right that domestic abuse and sexual offences should be recognised as serious violent crimes under this new duty. However, councils need further clarity from Government on how this will work in practice. It is also vital that the duty is matched with sustainable long-term funding, so that councils can effectively deliver on the duty and improve outcomes for communities and victims of serious violence and abuse.
- Investment in preventative and early intervention services remains essential to addressing serious violent crime and its underlying causes. The Government should release the £500 million Youth Investment Fund, announced in 2019, as soon as possible, alongside long-term, sustainable funding for councils’ youth and children’s services to support a cost-effective, preventative approach to crime.
- We are also calling for the Government to extend the Violence Reduction Unit model - currently in 18 police force areas – to all police forces in England and Wales and provide them with a five-year funding settlement, rather than year-on-year commitments.
- The Bill should complement the measures outlined in the Domestic Abuse Act and the Government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy, as well as wider legislation and guidance, to ensure that simultaneous changes to the local government community safety landscape are considered collectively and carefully.
- While this is a Home Office and Ministry of Justice led Bill, any new measures should be considered at a cross-Departmental level to deliver an effective multi-agency approach to preventing and tackling crime. Without involvement from the Department for Health and Social Care and the Department for Education, it will not be possible to embed early intervention and prevention measures across all key agencies and implement the right interventions to divert individuals away from violent crime.
Amendment 67, tabled by Baroness Williams of Trafford and Baroness Bertin, intends to clarify that “violence” for the purposes of Chapter 1 of Part 2 (preventing and reducing serious violence) includes domestic abuse and sexual offences.
Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Bill seeks to place a new statutory duty on local authorities and wider partners to collaborate and plan strategies to prevent and reduce serious violence. Amendment 67 will expand this duty to include domestic abuse and sexual offences.
Tackling serious violent crime is a key priority for councils. This has become even more vital due to the rising levels of this type of crime and the harm it causes to victims and communities, as well as the young people and vulnerable adults drawn and exploited into committing it.
During the passage of the Bill we have consistently highlighted that there needs to be an understanding across all partners of what is meant by ‘serious violent crime’. In the context of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy, violent crime referred to crime that occurs in a public space, for example knife crime, homicides, robbery or gun crime.
However, different areas will experience varying levels and types of serious violent crime; some areas have lower rates of violent crime in the public space, but more crime that primarily takes place behind closed doors, such as domestic abuse and activity by serious organised crime gangs. This will require different responses at a local level and the Bill must ensure there is flexibility within the system to enable this.
Therefore, it is right that domestic abuse and sexual offences should be recognised as serious violent crimes and that areas are able to prioritise them, and every effort should be taken to prevent and reduce stop these types of violent crime.
Councils need clarity from the Government on how this amendment to the serious violence duty will work in practice, and how the new burdens on local authorities will be adequately funded. Some consideration should also be given as to how this Bill will interact with the forthcoming Draft Victims’ Bill, which is expected to consult on the provision for domestic abuse and sexual violence community-based support services.
Amendments to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (Part 2, Clause 19)
In addition to the proposed serious violence duty, Clause 19 of the Bill seeks to amend the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The 1998 Act introduced Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs) (formerly known as Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships) to help tackle crime and reduce offending. This clause amends the 1998 Act to ensure preventing and reducing serious violence is a priority for CSPs.
It is important to highlight that CSPs have had their funding steadily withdrawn since 2010, which will have an impact on the resources and capacity available. It would be helpful for the Government to review the impact of these funding reductions on CSPs and councils’ ability to address the range of crime issues they are expected to assist other partners in tackling, with a view to increasing that core funding.
We would welcome further clarity on how the new serious violence duty is expected to work alongside existing duties and strategies, such as the duties under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
Violence Reduction Units
We are also calling for the Government to extend the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) model - currently in 18 police force areas – to all police forces in England and Wales and for them to be given a five-year funding settlement, rather than year-on-year commitments.
The Home Office has outlined that the new serious violence duty will complement the Government’s investment in the 18 Violence Reduction Units. These VRUs have been established in the areas most affected by serious violence and seek to ensure that agencies work together effectively.
VRUs are expected to bring together different organisations, including the police, local government, health, community leaders and other key partners to tackle violent crime by understanding and addressing its root causes. The new units were responsible for identifying what is driving violent crime in the area and coming up with a coordinated response.
In the 2020 feasibility study for VRUs, the Home Office found that some VRUs indicated that they would initially focus on reducing serious violence for the under-25 age cohort, with a particular focus on knife and gun crime. In addition, some VRUs intended to broaden their focus beyond the serious violence categories set out in the strategy, to target activity beyond the under-25 age cohort and across complementary areas such as sexual exploitation, domestic violence and modern slavery.
Given the relative success of the current 18 VRU areas, councils would welcome clarity about the Government’s intention to extend the VRU model to the remaining 23 police force areas. This would be especially helpful given that some VRUs are looking to expand their focus beyond public space serious violent crime, to consider domestic abuse and wider VAWG issues.
Age of Criminal Responsibility
Amendment 89, by Baroness Butler-Sloss, seeks to amend section 50 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (age of criminal responsibility) for “ten” to “12”.
The LGA supports a review of the minimum age of criminal responsibility and recommends that a minimum age of 14 is adopted in line with recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Research shows that the brain, in particular those parts involved in decision-making and risk behaviours, does not reach full maturation until adulthood. Conventional morality, including “law and order” morality, is generally not achieved until the mid-teens, and logical thinking abilities develop considerably between the ages of 11 and 15. This indicates the need for a different approach in working with these children and young people.
In addition, evidence suggests that younger children who are involved with the criminal justice system have higher levels of re-offending compared to those involved at a later age. This does not support improved outcomes for the individual child or for society.