Police chief calls for end to ‘postcode lottery’ of female arrests

Northumbria's police and crime commissioner Vera Baird.

Northumbria's police and crime commissioner Vera Baird.

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Northumbria Police chief, Dame Vera Baird, is backing a bid to end a “postcode lottery” over arrest rates that risk drawing vulnerable women into the criminal justice system

New research published by the Prison Reform Trust reveals significant variations in how police forces deal with women.

There are alternaive to custody.

There are alternaive to custody.

Fair Cop? - Improving outcomes for women at the point of arrest: provides solutions and examples of positive work by police to tackle low level, non-violent crime committed by women.

The report, however, also found that opportunities are being missed to intervene early, reduce women’s offending and protect the public.

An analysis of arrest figures shows that whilst the majority of police forces in England and Wales have seen some decline in the number of women arrested in the last year, in nearly two-fifths (37%) of police forces arrests of women rose.

In Northumbria, there wer 5,575 women arrested in 2014/15 and this figure had resuced by 22% to 4,327 the following year.

Writing in the foreword of the report, Dame Vera - Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumberland - said: “I hope this discussion paper will raise awareness of the practical steps now being taken to improve outcomes for women at the point of arrest.

“Not only can this lead to less crime and fewer victims, but it also pays dividends for the families and communities who depend on the women who are helped.”

Research has Women are more likely to be serving a sentence in prison for theft and other non-violent crimes than men.

In many of these instances, out of court action may be appropriate but the use these options for women who have committed low-level offences has fallen by over 45% since 2007.

Dame Vera added: “Like many of my fellow Police and Crime Commissioners I firmly believe that crime prevention is the way forward.

“This report shows how local areas are responding to the changing demands on police resources at a time when money is short.”

Author of the report Dr Thomas Guiney of the Prison Reform Trust said: “The evidence is clear that point of arrest can be the ideal opportunity for effective early intervention, giving women the support they need to tackle the issues leading to their offending.

Our report shows that this is working well in some areas—where police and other agencies are collaborating but more must be done to ensure these services are available across England and Wales.”