Hull pilot that sees women criminals given second chance could be extended
A TRIAL scheme that offers female criminals the chance to go on courses instead of being punished could be extended to all adults.
Police are hoping to roll out the "groundbreaking" pilot that sees women who have committed minor crimes avoiding prosecution in an attempt to reduce reoffending.
The scheme, known as the triage system, refers women to the Together Women charity to address the reasons they have offended.
Since its launch in December, one in ten women have been referred to the charity instead of being punished.
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Detective Chief Inspector Paul Cunningham said: "We have an ambition to extend it as far as we can.
"At the minute, it is only available to females who come into custody but, if it is successful, we will roll it out to females outside of custody as well and, hopefully, then to males.
"That might start with a certain age range or certain types of offences.
"It will be a challenge to do that because we have to find the resources to do it.
"We would also have to find somewhere to direct the males, too, which we have for the women."
So far, 151 women have been assessed after being arrested and taken to Clough Road police station in Hull to see if they could be referred to the project.
Of those, 15 were given appointments at Together Women instead of being cautioned, fined or prosecuted.
Staff at Together Women have identified issues around education, employment, accommodation and lack of life skills as the main factors behind their offences.
Det Chief Insp Cunningham said: "This is all about reducing the potential for reoffending. We give people a proportionate response without putting them through the criminal justice process.
"We are starting steadily by dealing with low-level offences and first-time offenders but there is potential to expand that.
"By providing them with a proportionate, effective and targeted intervention, we can hopefully stop them becoming prolific offenders."
Officers have begun an evaluation of the success of the scheme so far and will review it again in three months.
Representatives from the Home Office, Welsh Assembly and the College of Policing have visited the station to learn more about the project.
Det Chief Insp Cunningham said: "The women are assessed when they come into custody to what support they may need. The investigation process then takes place as normal to see what females will be eligible for going to Together Women as an outcome.
"It will normally be instead of something like a fixed penalty ticket or a caution and will hopefully address the causes of their offending to prevent them committing further crimes."
The trial began on females as they are a small group who traditionally respond better to encouragement.
Of the 151 women who have been assessed, 12 women who were still punished also voluntarily referred themselves to Together Women.
The triage process is based on a similar project in Hull, which has dramatically reduced reoffending among child criminals.
More than 940 young offenders have been referred to the Hull Youth Justice Service for support instead of being prosecuted since the youth triage scheme was launched in July 2009.
Of those, 770 have stayed out of trouble.