Headlines: July 3rd, 2003

The 42 newly launched Criminal Justice Boards are facing major challenges in fulfilling their role of supporting change management. The Audit Commission has identified the three major issues they must respond to if they are to succeed. The Boards are made up of chief officers from the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Probation Service, magistrates and crown courts, as well as senior representatives from the Prison Service and youth offending teams.The role of the Boards is to help all bodies in the crime fighting partnerships to achieve their public service agreement targets. Most of which are based around securing an increase in the number of offenders brought to justice, reducing the number of failed trials, and improving public confidence in the criminal justice system.

The critical success factors for the Boards identified by the Audit Commission are engagement, governance and performance. They must engage all the stakeholders in the fight against crime. This includes not just the full membership of the Board, but the wider range of organizations, including the local crime and disorder partnerships. The Commission is concerned that governance arrangements are tightened up because they found evidence of unclear and weak management. In particular, issues of accountability, roles and responsibilities and decision-making need to be addressed. Finally the Boards must develop a local vision of effective criminal justice and put in place effective performance management arrangements to achieve this.

Audit Commission Chairman James Strachan, said: “Local criminal justice boards have the potential to transform people’s experiences of criminal justice. If they are successful, they will improve public confidence in the system, bring more offenders to justice and improve services for victims and witnesses. The Government can help Boards to succeed by ensuring that regulation is strategic, and focused on improvement.”