Thursday, 25 November 2010

Jersey's Sex Offenders Register - Why the Delay? Facts and figures.

Jersey's home affairs minister said they needed an extra £184,000 for the sex offenders register. Officials behind Jersey's new sex offenders register say there is not enough money to fully fund it. The register will mean convicted sex offenders will have to keep police informed of where they are... The home affairs minister said more people are likely to be on the register than first expected. The Probation Service is currently dealing with seven sexual abusers, which the minister says is taking up a lot of staff time. If the department does not get more funding for the sex offenders register it could mean other offenders do not get the supervision they should have, according to the minister.

Home affairs minister Senator Ian Le Marquand has warned that if the law is going to be enacted now, more funding will need to be agreed next year to maintain it. Senator Le Marquand said they were expecting legal costs of £22,000 for each name added to the list. He said the extra £184,000 was needed for several reasons. He said: "There are two areas in which more money is needed, one is staff but the really big issue in terms of extra money is anticipated legal costs. "We estimate that for every case on average there will be costs of about £22,000."(1)

The question is where Senator Le Marquand gets his figures from - note that these are "estimates" relating to "anticipated legal costs". Who is providing this budgetary allocation? What data - perhaps from other jurisdictions - are they basing this on?

The Comprehensive spending review notes the following in its 2012 and 2013 Proposals:

Additional Staff - Probation Service and Childrens' Service - £184,000. Legislation has been passed by the States. Full financial implications were identified in the proposition (P132/2009). The Minister's Introduction to the 2010 ABP highlighted that additional funding would be required after 2010 for these services.

Court and Case Costs -£700,000: Impact on Court and Case Costs arising from defence lawyer's costs, risk assessment reports and additional court costs (as identified in P132/2008).
The proposition noted ACPO's report that: "Forces have varying levels of resources and requirements and there are competing priorities. Public protection work is generally extremely demanding and stressful. In order to fulfil responsibilities to the public and also to ensure, as a threshold standard, the welfare, health and safety of individual staff members, officers should not be required to manage more than fifty Registered Sex Offenders in the community at any one time."

A comparison was made between the smallest police force in the UK, that of Dumfries and Galloway, which is the smallest police force in England, Scotland, which has a population cover of around 130,000 people. It has have a dedicated Sex Offender Management Team within their Public Protection Unit:

The Sex Offender Team is managed by a detective inspector. It has one detective sergeant and 2 detective constables plus administrative support. This Unit currently manages 120 registered sex offenders.

By comparison, the Police National Computer identifies the names of over 250 convicted sex offenders with a Jersey address.

Why is Jersey listing such a high number? Part of the reason is undoubtedly that the UK legislation was not retrospective, whereas the Jersey legislation covers people convicted of sexual offenses before the legislation is implemented.

The ratios given by a Daily Mail article in 2006, entitled ""Staff Crisis in Monitoring the Sex Offenders' Register" noted that:

In some areas of the country there is only one police officer to track every 100 convicted offenders. In Strathclyde, Scotland's largest police area, there are only 15 officers in the sex offenders unit to monitor 1,500 individuals - a ratio of one officer to 100 criminals. Northern police region has only three officers to monitor 215 registered offenders, a ratio of one for every 72. Lothian and Borders has 590 sex offenders and 11 officers, while Central has four policemen overseeing 60 offenders. In Grampian there are six staff tracking 220 sex offenders and Tayside Police has seven staff monitoring 211 offenders. Fife Police have seven officers to 224 criminals and Dumfries and Galloway has only three staff monitoring 80 offenders

Clearly, since then the number of offenders listed in Dumfries and Galloway since then has increased by 40, but the administration numbers remain the same.

The policing requirements mentioned in the proposition (locally) are:

1 x Detective Sergeant
1 x Detective Constable (additional to post approved through the 2005 FSR process)
1 x Public Protection Unit Administrator

The annual cost of these additional posts is approximately £160,000. Non-staff costs of £17,000 will provide essential access to the ViSOR.

The proposition also listed probation costs:

(a) The appointment of 2 experienced Probation Officers at a cost of £129,000 (including on-costs).
(b) Provision of training and consultancy at £1,000 per day. This would total £6,000 per annum and it would be advisable for this consultancy level to be retained for no less than 5 years.
(c) Provision of joint assessment training with the States of Jersey Police at a provisional sum of £3,000 for one year only.

Apart from that, the other area of costs are of the following nature:

(a) Additional amounts within 'Court and Case costs' to cover specialist psychiatric/psychological reports ordered by the court in considering any applications.
(b) The appointment of a Senior Practitioner Social Worker to the Children's Service at a cost of £61,000 (including on-costs).
(c) The appointment of a main-grade Social Worker to the Children's Service at a cost of £55,000 (including on-costs).

But it is legal costs that really add the charges up:

It is anticipated that additional work can be absorbed within the current staffing levels of the Magistrate's Court and the Royal Court. There will, however, be additional Courts and Case costs arising from defence lawyers' costs, risk assessment reports and additional court costs. The estimate of costs is summarised in the table below.

Defence Lawyers' costs - Year 1 £435,000, Year 2 £435,000, Year 3 £89,000
Cost of Risk Assessments Year 1 £75,000, Year 2 £75,000, Year 3 £15,000
Court Commissioners' Costs Year 1 £25,000, Year 2 £25,000, Year 3 £3,000
Court of Appeal Costs Year 1 £24,000, Year 2 £24,000, Year 3 £4,800

The anticipated costs are very high initially - although these may in fact not be as high as anticipated:

The impact will depend on the actual numbers and types of cases that come before the courts, but this is difficult to predict precisely. Whilst people are more aware of their rights and ready to challenge decisions, it is likely that the number of appeals will be diminished by the certainty of media reporting. The estimate assumes that there will be 50 retrospective cases during the first 2 years of the operation of the Law, whilst year 3 shows the estimated costs of ongoing cases based on 5 per annum. It further assumes that the Police will require 30 Restraining Orders for retrospectively registered sex offenders.

The proposition - lodged 19th August 2009, carried unanimously on 08 October 2009 - noted in its comments that:

The Council of Ministers agreed earlier in the year to inscribe an additional sum of £70,000 in the 2010 Draft Business Plan so that some provision was made for any additional cost. As can be seen from the above table, the actual anticipated annual revenue costs total £431,000, creating a shortfall of £184,000 once the full effect of the Law is felt

To enable recruitment of these posts to take place next year however, agreement in principle will be needed to provide full funding, i.e. the additional £184,000 in advance of the 2011 business planning process.

This was back in 2009 - it is now November 2010 - and I wonder why - given that it was noted in these comments by Senator Le Marquand over a year ago, that nothing has been done regarding to secure the full funding until now, and matters have been left to drift, so that it is still £184,000 short of target!

...agreement in principle will be needed to provide full funding, i.e. the additional £184,000 in advance of the 2011 business planning process...

Surely someone in the Council of Ministers - Senator Le Marquand, or Senator Ozouf as Treasury Minister, or Senator Terry le Sueur as Chief Minister (and providing some active leadership) - should have addressed this issue early, and not at this late stage, because it was flagged up over a year ago? Equally I wonder why Scrutiny seem to have failed to pick up on that, and seen what was happening with that full funding required.

Why didn't any politicians concerned with child protection chase this up to make sure it was happening? They'll complain now - but that, too, is late in the day. Scrutiny should monitor anything like this, and make sure it is on target, if they are doing their job properly, not relying on an assumption that the Ministers will deal with it, so they need not bother.

What is needed now, however, is not blame, but extra funding in order to bring this into place, and given the failure to address the anticipated shortfall for over a year, it is beholden upon the Council of Ministers to find the funding, regardless of their budgetary cuts - after all, they knew about it, and they had the ability to address the issue.

Links
(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-jersey-11824855
(2) http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/documents/propositions/21286-3803-1982009.pdf

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tony
A most appropriate and timely effort!
It is extremely worrying for the general public to be yet again exposed to this type of political ineptitude (or is it something worse than ineptitude?)
It seems that it is generally accepted that funding of over £1 million can be found without any difficulty solely to provide evidence to substantiate the suspension of the former Police Chief - but £184,000 to provide what every modern society considers to be an essential service seems to be an insurmountable obstacle.
This is quite clearly nonsense.
Readers will clearly need to draw their own conclusions about the reasons for the approach being taken by the Council of Ministers .....

Ian Evans said...

Thanks for the posting Tony, very informative, and I shall be passing it on to C.H.R.I.S

Ian Evans said...

Hmmm?

TonyTheProf said...

I should add that Jersey now has a Sex Offenders Law, and in 2013, from January, third party disclosure provisions that are popularly called "Sarah's Law" in the UK will be also introduced.