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Joint effort is for criminal justice.

A joint agency to help catch, convict and rehabilitate criminals in the West Midlands will begin work tomorrow.

The new Local Criminal Justice Board was established after national research showed that in 2000/2001, over five million crimes were recorded nationally but only a fifth of them resulted in offenders being brought to justice.

The board is made up of representatives from the police, Crown Prosecution Service, magistrates' court, crown court, probation service, prison service, and youth offending teams.

The West Midlands board will target persistent offenders and priority offences like street crime, house burglary and vehicle crime. It will also aim to iron out weaknesses in the criminal justice system and provide support for victims and witnesses.

Alan Eccles, Justices' chief executive and chairman of the West Midlands Local Criminal Justice Board, said: 'Our overriding aim is to look at how we can improve the whole criminal justice process to bring more offenders to justice.

'Doing this is the best way of demonstrating to criminals that their crimes will not go unpunished, and to victims that the criminal justice system is acting effectively on their behalf.

'It is important that members of the public, including victims and witnesses, have complete confidence in the criminal justice process.

'Everyone acknowledges there is a gap in the current process but we believe that, by working together as a team, we can help close this gap.'

The board hopes to encourage better practice and cooperation between the different agencies.

It also aims to target particular offences through initiatives like the Safer Streets anti-robbery drive, as well as tackling particular persistent offenders.

Mr Eccles said the Safer Streets initiative, which was set up last April, had involved a multiagency approach which had been very successful.

Improved witness and victim schemes will be set up to reduce the number of cases which collapse because witnesses fail to attend hearings.

A cross agency Victim and Witness Care Group will be set up to identify their needs and research the reasons why witnesses do not attend court.

West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Nick Tofiluk said: 'I believe that by working in this way we can start to have a real impact on the whole criminal justice process and boost public confidence in the system.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 31, 2003
Words:377
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