Offenders who breach community penalties imposed by a court by lying low or moving to another area are going to find it much more difficult to ‘ disappear’. A pilot project in Staffordshire showed that close co-operation between the courts and the police closes the information loop. The courts were given full access to the Police National Computer and the Police Computer was updated with details of court warrants so that the police have a fuller picture about habitual offenders.In the pilot project magistrates’ courts in Staffordshire loaded offenders’ names into the Police National Computer to obtain a wide range of information that could help track them down. Information includes aliases, associates, contact details, cases pending or dealt with, details of bail conditions, passport number and any past convictions or offences. The pilot has so far tracked down 683 offenders who may not have been caught without magistrates having access to this information.
In 2003/04, 40,523 community penalty breach warrants were issued. It is planned extend joined up working to the other 41 magistrates’ courts across England and Wales by the autumn.
The courts are also using information from the Police Computer to enforce the payment of fines.