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Making the criminal justice system work better: how to improve out-of-court disposals and diversion schemes

January 2022

A system under pressure

In 2020, Crest conducted research on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the criminal justice system in England and Wales. Our main conclusions were that court caseloads could quadruple by 2024 and that there was a desperate need to find better ways to manage offenders at the ‘front end’ - before they are prosecuted and go to court.

Expansion and improvement

The main aim of this project was to identify whether there is scope for expanding the use of out-of-court disposals and diversion programmes - in part to ease pressure on the criminal justice system. We also consider ways to improve the effectiveness of such disposals and enhance public understanding of them. We set out our key findings, principles for reform and specific recommendations.

Five stages of analysis

There were five main strands to our research: (1) analysing public data on out-of-court disposals, (2) researching the use of out-of-court disposals and their effectiveness, (3) gathering insight from national and local stakeholders, (4) carrying out an in-depth study in the Thames Valley Police force area and (5) consulting the public via a nationally representative survey.

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