We spoke with Christopher Guttridge, Commissioner’s Officer for Crime, Offending and Justice, about this scheme.
About Cleveland Divert
Cleveland Divert (CD) was launched in 2018. It was commissioned by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland and is delivered in partnership with Probation Service North-East and Cleveland Police. Since its inception, Divert has supported over 900 individuals via pathways that include mental health issues, substance abuse, education and housing.
The Divert team consists of the Probation Service and Cleveland Police. From a policing perspective, Divert sits under the Chief Inspector of Custody in Criminal Justice of Cleveland Police.
How the programme works
Once an individual admits guilt and shows remorse they are referred to the Divert team. It is at the discretion of the arresting officer to refer the individual to the scheme. However, supervising officers are expected to check with their staff whether they have considered the scheme following an arrest. At the custody desk, officers will ask whether the arresting officers have considered Divert, which encourages widespread awareness throughout the force. The Chief Inspector of Custody in Criminal Justice of Cleveland Police has also invested time into raising the profile of Divert amongst the force.
Once referred, the individual must sign an agreement stating that they will not re-offend and will take part in victim awareness courses, after which the team assesses the details of the case, contacts the victim for their views and decides if the individual meets the eligibility criteria. Police and probation must mutually agree that the case is eligible.
When an individual is accepted, the Divert Support Officer (probation staff) will meet with them and complete a full needs assessment that covers accommodation, education, training and employment, financial management, lifestyle and associates, relationships (including domestic violence), drugs and alcohol, emotional and physical wellbeing, and behaviour and attitudes. Once the assessment is complete, a bespoke intervention is created and will address any areas of need over the course of four months. It can include an offending behaviour session or a victim awareness module.
In some instances, the Divert officer will attend the individual’s address and encourage them to engage. If individuals do not complete the scheme, they are at risk of being charged for their original offence.
In some cases, for example individuals with severe mental health issues and multiple complex needs, four months is insufficient to adequately address their needs. In these cases, the team will signpost the individual to local services in Cleveland once the service user’s engagement with Divert has come to an end.
The team has developed an extensive network of services providing support across the pathway spectrum to ensure that services are local to the individual. This removes a barrier to their engagement by limiting the need to travel.
As part of the intervention, they will work with service users to encourage them to engage with a restorative justice process via Restorative Cleveland. In fact, Divert is the largest referral source for Restorative Cleveland. Engagement with a restorative justice process enables the service user to make amends for the offence and contemplate the impact it has had on the victim.
Restorative Cleveland is a victim-focussed service, which provides victims with opportunities such as writing a letter to explain how the offence affected them or their families. Those on the programme may offer a written letter of apology or a face-to-face meeting might be arranged.
Before the pandemic, engagement rates were around 85%. The pandemic has caused difficulties, as with many services, but the service has worked hard to keep things running smoothly and has noted little overall impact on service delivery.
The PCC’s office is looking into setting up an independent evaluation. However, the scheme appears to be successful as of those 461 individuals who have completed Divert, Christopher Guttridge reports that only 5.8% have re-offended.
Divert is also part of the Out of Court Disposals Scrutiny Panel scheme, as part of which Divert sends a selection of cases to the panel every quarter to be reviewed. The panel consists of magistrates, members of the Crown Prosecution Service, probation, youth offending teams, victim services and the OPPC in the neighbouring force area who all score the cases based on suitability for an out of court disposal. The score factors in the severity of the offence, the impact on the victim and whether the case meets the programmes eligibility criteria.
For more information about the panel and their findings, click here.
Divert were the recipients of the Adults and Policing Category at the Howard League Community Awards in October 2021.
Case study by Maysa Clam and Isabella Anderson, 2022.