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New non-custodial options 'part of culture change'

Force says new measures including increased use of offender management contracts are not a "soft option"

A force hopes to steer more people away from the criminal justice system as it “embeds offender management principles” into its every day work.

From April, Durham Constabulary will be rolling out its Checkpoint scheme, which it has developed alongside academics from the University of Cambridge.

It is planning to extend restorative justice approaches to crime and offer selected offenders a “contract to engage”.

It will also attempt to identify any offenders who should be better dealt with by addressing their drug or alcohol misuse, financial management or housing problems.

Under the contracts, options available could include mandated GPS tracking or community volunteering.

Detective Sergeant Andy Crowe, who is one of the team helping to deliver the concept, said: “It is not a ‘soft option’ – refusal to comply with the terms of the contract will mean the offender reverts back to being dealt with through the normal disposal methods.

"It is aimed at reducing offending and reducing the demands on frontline staff, allowing them more time to deal with the serious, persistent offenders.”

He described the approach to being part of a “real cultural change” for the force.

A range of statutory and third sector bodies are also involved, including drug treatment centres, the Department for Work and Pensions, housing, probation and health agencies and the Salvation Army.