Nicola Lloyd, Neighbourhood Justice Manager at West Midlands Police, talks to us about the Force’s innovative Alcohol Related Violence Course (ARVC) which is targeted at alcohol-related offences including assaults, public order and criminal damage.
Night-time economy related offences
The ARVC drew inspiration from Turning Point, an experiment run by Cambridge University and West Midlands Police that found that diverting offenders from the criminal justice system and into early intervention reduces re-offending by 36%. Substance abuse specialist charity Swanswell & Cranstoun developed the ARVC as a way to ‘reduce re-offending and avoid unnecessarily criminalising offenders’.
The course has been operating since January 2017 and was originally conceived to fill a gap in provision of alcohol intervention for binge drinkers (as opposed to dependent drinkers). It was initially funded through the Police Innovation Fund (now PCC funded) and is being evaluated by the Neighbourhood Justice Team. The programme is unique and innovative in the way that it combines interventions that address both violence and alcohol in conjunction, specifically targeting physical, emotional and psychological effects, while raising awareness of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.
The course is classed as early intervention and aims to reduce the number of repeat alcohol-related crimes committed, with particular focus on violent crimes. From a health point of view, offenders are given the tools to moderate their alcohol consumption before it becomes problematic. Cranstoun have already identified that this course has given them access to a younger demographic who would not normally present themselves for treatment until they were much older.
How it works
Referrals to the ARVC can either be made by Community Resolution (for people eligible to receive a caution or penalty notice), or Conditional Caution (for people who would otherwise be charged).
Developed by Swanswell & Cranstoun, the course offers intervention and awareness through six sessions over 3 weeks. The sessions cover their substance misuse, the link between their substance misuse and their offence, the personal triggers that lead them to substance misuse and related violence, and the tools they can use to manage these triggers and misuse.
The eligibility for the programme are:
- Violent offenders whose offence is related to alcohol abuse;
- Offenders who are suitable for a conditional caution or a community resolution;
- Offenders who have admitted guilt to the offence;
- Offenders who have not committed any intimate partner violence;
- Offenders who offend within the West Midlands Police Force area, excluding Coventry and Wolverhampton deemed suitable by the alcohol intervention provider (Cranstoun).
Experience suggests that leverage is necessary to compel offenders to attend the course. Consequently, the course has not been made available for voluntary referrals. Once given an Out of Court Disposal, attendance is mandatory.
Impact of the ARVC on offending
Between 2017 and 2019, more than 700 offenders have been referred onto the course. Of these referrals, 80% have completed the course. Of the people who have completed the programme, 75% have not committed any further offences. In comparison with an historic control group:
- Violent offenders showed a 78% reduction in repeat offending.
- The average number of violent crimes committed by those who have re-offended dropped by 39%, from 1.8 to 1.1.
- Crime harm shows a reduction of 52%
The course has had a significantly positive effect on crime reduction by leading to:
- Less individual re-offending;
- Fewer violent crimes committed per person;
- Reduction in severity of crimes.
The programme was also found to save the Force up to £3,400 per case. The total opportunity cost saving to the whole Criminal Justice System and Health was estimated to be £1,578,192 (to December 2018).
Whilst the ARVC has only been in operation for a few years, it continues to show the type of outstanding results expected of innovative practices, particularly within police forces. The aim of the ARVC is to reduce the re-offending significantly, the programme has met this aim commendably.
For more information on ARVC, contact Nicola Lloyd via email@example.com
This case-study was compiled by Michael Farinu in 2019