It’s been another busy few months at the CJA as we launched a super-complaint on section 60 stop and search, gave evidence to a group of MPs on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and published a briefing for new Police and Crime Commissioners. Here is my regular update outlining progress on our Connecting for Change strategy:
Effective Scrutiny and Accountability
In May we lodged a super-complaint on section 60 stop and search. The police super-complaint process allows designated bodies, such as the CJA, to raise concerns about policing practices which are harming the public. The report setting out the super-complaint, More Harm Than Good, highlighted that the blanket nature of this power is leading to thousands of innocent people being unnecessarily stopped and searched every year, with Black people 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched under section 60 than White people. The complaint called for the power to be repealed and for the evaluation, promised by the Home Office when it relaxed authorisation measures two years ago, to be published.
Our super-complaint also called for community scrutiny to be mandatory for all police force areas, and for the government to set up an independent national body to support robust community scrutiny, monitor national trends in the use of stop and search and hold police forces and the government to account. The super-complaint was covered by ITV News London, the Independent and the i newspaper. We look forward to working with the Independent Office of Police Conduct, HMI Constabulary and the College of Policing as they take the next steps in considering and hopefully investigating our complaint.
We are also continuing to work with the Independent Monitoring Boards and Independent Custody Visitors Association on projects looking at improving equalities monitoring in police and prison custody, with reports due to be published later this year.
A Restorative Criminal Justice System
In April, academics, practitioners and a prison governor discussed how we can build a restorative criminal justice system at an online event we held in partnership with the British Journal of Community Justice.
In May, the CJA accepted an invitation to sit on the advisory board for the newly launched All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Restorative Justice, founded by Elliot Colburn MP (Chair) and Christina Rees MP (Vice-Chair). The APPG will be launching an inquiry into the current state of restorative justice and practices across a range of criminal justice settings, as well as other settings such as schools. The CJA will be acting as an umbrella body on the board to help ensure the voices of smaller, specialist organisations with an interest in restorative justice and restorative practice are heard. The terms of reference for the APPG’s initial inquiry will be discussed by the CJA’s Restorative Expert Group later today, and the CJA will also host a number of focus group discussions in July to gather insights from members to submit to the inquiry.
A Fit for Purpose and Diverse Workforce
Following the publication of our Change from Within report, we have worked with our Lived Experience Expert Group and our paid Longford Trust interns over the last year to develop a lived experience leadership programme. This programme will support people who want to progress to more senior roles and influence change in the criminal and social justice systems. The programme will also work with employers to help develop inclusive environments for lived experience leaders to thrive. We are delighted to have recently been awarded a grant by Trust for London for a two-year London-based pilot, subject to securing match funding.
We are also finalising a report on improving racial diversity across the criminal justice workforce, based on the roundtables we held last year on recruitment, retention, progression and measuring impact. The report was delayed due to the pandemic but will be launched later this year. We are already using the interim findings to feed into discussions with policy makers.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
We have continued to bring together a range of organisations to highlight concerns that the PCSC Bill will entrench racial inequality. Together we have written an open letter to the Prime Minister, set up a petition and social media campaign to raise awareness, secured media coverage and produced a detailed briefing assessing the full equality impact assessments which we successfully called to be published. I have also given evidence to the Public Bill Committee alongside other CJA members and worked with EQUAL to support the development of an amendment around Serious Violence Reduction Orders.
Police and Crime Commissioners
Ahead of the PCC elections in May we published a revised version of our Public Safety, Public Trust briefing. The briefing provided newly-elected PCCs with some innovative ideas for their Police and Crime Plans, ranging from supporting pandemic recovery to helping victims of crime. We have invited newly-elected PCCs and others to an event later this month to explore how they can tackle racial inequality and build the trust of young adults and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the police and wider criminal justice system. The event will also discuss new guidance for PCCs on commissioning and providing specialist support for ethnic minority victims, which the CJA helped develop following a roundtable we held with the MoJ race disparity team.
Employment & Families
We are delighted to have commenced a new programme of work focusing on supporting people leaving prison with employment, family and relationships, funded by Porticus UK. The CJA will be working with other project partners to lead an advocacy and influencing strategy, holding the government to account on the recommendations and commitments in the Coates Review, Education & Employment Strategy and the Farmer Reviews. We recently submitted evidence to the Education Select Committee, drawing on the expertise of our members, and look forward to working with other members working in these areas shortly.
New members and new staff
We are delighted to welcome four new members: Inside Justice, Landworks, Network for Justice and UNJUST CIC. We also welcomed our first Deputy Director, Annette So, in May.
Evaluation and strategy development
Thank you to all those who completed our member survey, which forms part of our external evaluation of our current strategy. We will shortly publish a short summary of the findings, with a full report to follow later this year. Our staff and trustees are now working on our next strategy for 2022-2025 using your feedback, and there will be more opportunities to have your say in two focus groups we are running in July.