Justice system reforms will 'reduce crime rate' by tackling reoffending

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Andy Dickenson

The Government has launched a raft of reforms to the justice system, which could see sexual and violent offenders spending more time in jail.

Critics say the planned shake-up comes after courts have virtually ground to a halt because of the coronavirus crisis and will do nothing to help with delays.

However, some former offenders hope the changes will help them find jobs and get out of a cycle of crime.

Former offender John Daynes believes the reforms will make a "significant difference" and give people a "fair chance".

John Daynes believes the reforms will make a "significant difference". Credit: ITV News Meridian

It will reduce the crime rate because these people are going to have the chance to earn money in a legit way.

John Daynes, Former offender

John freely admits to making "bad choices" when he was young.

He became addicted to heroin by the age of 16, then crack cocaine - addictions that led to violence, theft and prison and a spiral he couldn't control.

John said: "I was in and out of prison, addicted to class A drugs, and it damaged me, destroyed me, broke me down and my soul was dark. My mind was conditioned to learn more crime, it was programmed a certain way, which wasn't healthy for me but I didn't realise that because you're around all criminals, speaking about what works and what doesn't work, so when I came out of the prison it was just downhill."

What helped rescue John was a homeless centre that let him volunteer and the catering company that supplied it crucially gave him work.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Among the reforms announced on Wednesday are plans to make criminal records 'spent' earlier - helping former offenders get jobs.

Annie Gail runs the RAW Talent Programme which supports people who have a criminal conviction into employment.

Annie says the programme reduces the chances of reoffending, gives people a sense of purpose and helps them to get their life back on track.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Among the planned changes are using GPS to tag thieves when they have left prison, curfews and treatment programmes for offenders so often struggling with mental illness and addictions.

The Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: "It's all about making sentencing smarter by focusing on the need to protect the public from serious offenders but at the same time improving the way that our probation service supervises those who commit lower level offences but might have an addiction, a mental health problem or some other condition that frankly needs intervention in order to prevent the depressing cycle of reoffending that we see far too often."

The Sentencing White Paper comes at a time when the justice system itself is buckling under the strain of Covid-19, with victims and offenders stuck a huge backlog of trials.

Yet, the costs of reoffending are huge, some £18 billion a year.

Giving ex-offenders work, care and a purpose, John says, is priceless.