I had the pleasure of chairing a fringe event hosted by the Howard League for Penal Reform today on young people and the criminal justice system. The focus for the event was how police and crime commissioners can change the way young offenders are treated. Home Office minister James Brokenshire was very keen to assert that PCCs should be ‘ambitious’ in their plans for dealing with young people. But Home Affairs Select Committee member James Clappison was a little less optimistic, particularly about whether the government is actually pushing hard enough for these commissioners to be a momentous change to policing.
‘I think there are opportunities here, and I think we should be ambitious for them… The police commissioners are getting a higher profile now, and I hope that they will be given support to get an even higher programme, and I hope I can say that with a member of the government here, and that we take as much advantage as we can of this opportunity. They will have the opportunity I hope to lead local campaigns to get into the local press, to give a lead to local people and to meet groups in the local community and to really shape the agenda locally and I hope that’s what they do. But I think they need some support in order to do that.’
Another issue is whether the police and crime commissioners will really have the mandate to be as ambitious as Brokenshire expects them to be. If they are elected on an average turnout of 15 per cent, which is what those close to the reforms expect, this could be difficult.