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IDENTIFYING CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR LOCAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE BOARDS

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Newly-created local criminal justice boards (LCJBs) must meet three key challenges if they are to succeed, accordin...
Newly-created local criminal justice boards (LCJBs) must meet three key challenges if they are to succeed, according to a report out today from the Audit Commission.

Local criminal justice boards - supporting change management identifies these challenges as:

* Engagement - if LCJBs are to succeed, they need the full co-operation and commitment of their members as well as the support of a wider range of organisations.

* Governance - many partnerships suffer from unclear or weak management arrangements. LCJBs should give consideration to issues of accountability, roles and responsibilities and decision-making arrangements.

* Performance - LCJBs must develop a local vision of effective criminal justice and put in place effective performance management arrangements to achieve this.

Local criminal justice boards came into existence in April 2003 with the purpose of improving the experiences of people coming into contact with the criminal justice system, namely victims, witnesses, defendants and their communities.

There are 42 boards, one in each of the local criminal justice areas. They 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. They are charged with helping these bodies achieve their public service agreement targets. These 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 report says that, to help LCJBs succeed, the government should develop an inspection framework which focuses on the needs of people who use the criminal justice system, and ensure that performance targets are relevant and appropriate.

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. Close attention to three key issues - engagement, governance and performance - will help bring this about.

'The government has a key part to play too. It can help boards to succeed by ensuring that regulation is strategic, and focused on improvement.'

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