Modernising Criminal Justice: Community Sentence Treatment Requirement Programme

Reducing Re-offending and Short-Term Custodial Sentences Through the Community Sentence Treatment Requirement Programme 

As part of the online event Modernising Criminal Justice Conference 2021, held by GovNet in July 2021, a panel of professionals discussed the Community Sentence Treatment Requirement (CSTR) programme being rolled out across the UK to better serve dual diagnoses, reduce re-offending rates and provide a more comprehensive alternative to short-term custodial sentences.

Hosted by CSTR National Programme Manager, Mignon French, the panel discussion leant on experts across the country to provide an overview of the proposed service and how it’s working in pilot areas. 

The following panellists attended the session:  

Mignon French, CSTR National Programme Manager
MoJ, NHS England and NHS Improvement, DHSC, PHE and HMPPS

Gail Warnes, Senior Health and Justice Commissioning Manager 
NHS England & Improvement South West, SW 

Neale Thomas, Public Health and Wellbeing Manager 
Essex CC, Essex CSTR Health and Justice Commissioner 

Felicity Sparshott, Senior Probation Officer
Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Assessment, Courts and Enforcement Team 

Dr Mark Walton, Principal Clinical Psychologist
Mersey Forensic Psychology Service & Mental Health Treatment Requirement 

The programme, which is already live across 15 sites in England, covering 20% of the population and with a further new site in Wales, aims to reduce re-offending by providing alternatives to short-term custodial sentences. These alternatives are thought to be better at engaging offenders, addressing complex needs and encouraging partners to work together to map and monitor a suitable sentence. 

Furthermore, the programme offers a way to directly address underlying health, substance misuse and social issues which may contribute to offending behaviour by providing more combined orders and them more straightforward to issue. 

CSTR in the South West 

Senior Health and Justice Commissioning Manager Gail Warnes reported on the programme’s impact in the South West, speaking about how the service is being delivered for Mental Health Treatment Requirements (MHTR) in this area.

“[The programme’s initiatives] have yielded exceptional buy-in for the mental health treatment requirement and discussions are afoot in another three counties along the same lines.” 

Gail described the programme’s results as having “yielded exceptional buy-in for mental health treatment requirement”. She also outlined some of the significant benefits the South West has experienced so far, including local ownership of treatment options, making combined orders more straightforward and greater collaboration between The Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC), Local Authority and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

CSTR in Essex 

Public Health and Wellbeing Manager Neale Thomas covered the commissioning of Alcohol Treatment Requirement (ATR) and Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (DRR) in Essex as part of the CSTR programme. In this segment, Neale emphasised the importance of a partnership approach, which is championed by the CSTR programme, working with commissioning services and wider community services to deliver and improve the use of treatment for offenders with complex needs. 

Neale explained that offenders rarely present a singular need. Rather they are often faced with a range of issues that require a variety of treatment needs to be met, otherwise known as dual diagnosis. In understanding this, the CSTR attempts to overcome siloed working and encourages more comprehensive treatment packaging, ultimately displaying a more sophisticated approach to community sentencing.

CSTR in Milton Keynes

As the blueprint and first pilot for extended services, Milton Keynes has acted as a model for the rest of the country, encouraging others to adopt the CSTR vision. Senior Probation Officer Felicity Sparshott communicated that success, highlighting the robust CSTR site process from identification to sentence completion. 

Felicity outlined the key problems the CSTR programme aims to overcome and the strategies employed to eliminate them. Most notably, the provision of monthly steering groups where a member of the judiciary discusses programme challenges and successes.

Felicity claimed the programme has already seen significant benefits in Milton Keynes improving partnership working, access to assessment, judicial confidence and more anecdotally a greater completion of community orders by the difficulty to engage a cohort of offenders with reduced likelihood of a breach.

CSTR as a National Programme

Finally, Principal Clinical Psychologist Dr Mark Walton gives insight into how the primary MHTR is being delivered as a new initiative as part of the national programme. Speaking of the need for speed in assessment and action, Mark stresses the importance of on-the-day assessments to provide timely, short-term therapy for those with mild to moderate psychological difficulties. 

“I cannot stress enough how important [partnership working] is to our work, at all levels, whether that’s at management level or at clinical levels. If you do work in these arenas, invest time in these areas.”

In adopting the CSTR approach, Mark believes organisations can respond quickly and meaningfully to offenders, targeting the factors that underpin a person’s stress and offering opportunities to help make positive changes. Ultimately, “the person’s narrative” is at the core of the programme, allowing professionals to understand their difficulties in the context of an offender’s life, providing more tailored therapy that has real, tangible results.

CSTR and Multi-Disciplinary Partnerships

Closing the session, Mignon French asked each panellist to comment on how multi-disciplinary partnerships work in practice, emphasising the CSTR programme can’t be provided without investment from all involved parties. 

Each expert gave their own insight, highlighting how the dedicated teams have worked together to create speedy summary justice and safer sentencing so far. 

“In the Milton Keynes site, we have a really positive and cooperative steering group which has members from many partner agencies [...]. The real importance is that through that meeting, we’re able to ask questions [...] and talk about how sometimes the different delivery models of organisations don’t necessarily run interwoven together so we look at how we can overcome any difficulties that there are. And with that understanding and commitment from senior leaders in each of those partners, the on-the-ground delivery is incredibly successful.” - Felicity Sparshott