We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

The importance of early intervention

There is no cohesive approach to provide low level offenders with any systematic form of support according to a new report

A new report from the Centre for Justice Innovation looks at how the criminal justice system increasingly focuses on serious and prolific offending at the expense of early interventions with low level offenders.

The report is entitled: “I didn’t know who to turn to”: Understanding and filling the gap in advice and support services for people with low level criminal justice system involvement.

The report points out that a large majority of people in contact with the criminal justice system have low level involvement, receiving disposals like fines or cautions without any further supervision from the Probation Service. It says that currently, there is no cohesive approach to provide those individuals with any systematic form of support – even when their offending is being driven by social welfare needs like homelessness, debt or substance misuse.

The report argues that offering effective and appropriate advice and support to this group has the potential to stop their issues from escalating and plays an important role in long-term crime prevention.

The purpose of the report is to inform the development of appropriate advice and support services through qualitative research with people in low level contact with the justice system who have sought help for social welfare needs.


The 15 people interviewed for the research had sought help for a wide range of needs, including housing, benefits support and mental health issues. They had a range of factors which might make it harder for them to access support, such as literacy issues, learning difficulties or neurodiversity, and having English as a second or additional language. Being in contact with the criminal justice system had exacerbated the needs of some interviewees by causing additional stress or creating practical problems with employment or family life. They reported a range of factors that made it hard to access support. Lots of people simply weren’t aware of specialist support services. Practical issues such as inconvenient locations and opening times were also important as well as long waiting lists and slow response times. As a result, interviewees also often held negative or sceptical views on the value of support services.

The report includes direct quotes from interviewees which highlight some of these barriers:

“I didn’t know who to turn to. Because there’s not really that much help out there, is there? You know, you can go and pay for the help but they don’t really explain anything, do they?”

“I’ve never got through; I’ve always been on hold. But as I say, because of my job, I can’t sit down for an hour and wait for someone to pick the phone up.”


The report identifies six principles which characterised effective advice and support practice for people with low level justice system involvement requiring support for their needs:

  1. Ease of access: Services should provide straightforward routes into support with the option of both pre-booked appointments and drop-ins. The primary mode for support is face-to-face, but it should also be straightforward to contact services by phone and email.
  2. Consistency: Services should provide clients with a single point of contact who takes pro-active responsibility for managing their case and keeping the client informed.
  3. Sensitivity: Clients should be able to discuss their needs in a discrete and non-judgemental environment. Services should be responsive to clients’ diverse characteristics and to people’s individual circumstances, including factors that might make it more difficult for them to access support.
  4. Criminal justice awareness: Services should seek to support clients in their criminal justice engagement as well as with their social welfare needs. Clients need help with understanding jargon and processes as well as with basic tasks like finding a legal representative.
  5. A whole person approach: Services should respond to the full range of needs that clients present with, taking their initially identified support requests as a starting point to explore a broader support offer.
  6. Effective transition between agencies: Generalist services will need to refer some clients on to specialist support; they should take an active role in helping the client to access the new service and, where required, provide interim support until they have made the transition.

Readers interested in this topic can read the full Centre for Justice Innovation report here.

Leave a Comment
In Other News
South Yorkshire officer awaiting trial had received death threats
Use of force oversight still a concern in Cumbria says HMIC
Forces combine to secure first banning order under new legislation
More News