Police's approach reaping rewards

ESSEX Police's hard-line approach against criminals is paying off as record numbers of offences are being brought to court in the county, it has been claimed.

ESSEX Police's hard-line approach against criminals is paying off as record numbers of offences are being brought to court in the county, it has been claimed.

In 2005, nearly 31,000 offences were brought to justice in Essex, according to figures released by the Essex Criminal Justice Board.

The statistics show the county's justice system appears to have already exceeded its target for 2005-6.

In the 12 months up to December 2005, some 30,969 offences were brought to justice in the Essex Criminal Justice Board region. The county's target for 2005-6 is 28,432.

The board updates the figures every quarter, by publishing the number of offences brought to justice in the 12 months up to the quarter end.

The latest set of statistics show an increase in offences taken to court of 42% compared to the board's baseline, which is 21,709 offences in the 12 months up to March 2002.

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Yesterday, Robert Chambers, chairman of Essex Police Authority, said the improved figures were thanks to Chief Constable Roger Baker.

He said: “They [The Essex Criminal Justice Board] might be claiming credit for it, but it is not them, it is the new Essex policing style causing more people to be convicted, fined, and locked up and it is beginning to show in the figures coming out.

“If you commit an offence you have to take responsibility for it, whatever that might be.

“Roger very much goes along with the argument that if you are law abiding, you have nothing to worry about, but if you commit crime, you will be locked up.

“What Roger is trying to do is get to the root of the low level crime and that will make people feel a lot better.”

But Mary Archer, chair of Essex Criminal Justice Board, said the results reflected the work of staff in witness care units who have been encouraging people to give evidence in court as well as the support victims and witnesses receive.

She said: “Achieving this target early shows Essex's determination to do all we can to increase offences brought to justice.

“We now have witness care units serving all our courts to better support victims and witnesses of crime, and this has shown real results in encouraging them to give evidence in court.

“Our aim is to maintain this momentum and continue to exceed our targets wherever we can.”

Tricia Brennan, chairwoman of Essex Criminal Justice Board's victim and witness action team, said: “Much has been done to improve the way that victims and witnesses are supported through the criminal justice process.

“This support can be as simple as helping arrange child care for someone who needs to give evidence at court.

“However, we also work closely with a range of charities and organisations that can offer help and support to victims and witnesses on a range of issues, including Victim Support Essex, Essex Against Domestic Violence and the NSPCC.”

Superintendent Graeme Bull, head of Essex Police's criminal justice department, said: “These results are the culmination of effective partnership working throughout the criminal justice system.

“It is more than the quality of police investigations and number of arrests that are being undertaken by Essex Police and it is more than effective witness care units, more than the statutory charging scheme and performance team. It is co-operation between the CJS partners from start to finish.”

The performance figures published for the third quarter of 2005-6, show that since March 2002, Essex:

n Reduced the rate of “ineffective trials” - those which do not start on the day planned - in the crown court by more than 15%, down from 26% to 10.5%.

n Reduced the rate of ineffective trials in magistrates' courts by 5.5% , down from 28.1% to 22.6%.

n Reduced the amount of outstanding warrants for defendants who failed to turn up at court by 7.5%

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