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Short jail terms fail to prevent reoffending, says former England and Wales magistrate

Short jail terms

Short jail terms fail to prevent reoffending, says former England and Wales magistrate

Criminals in England and Wales are being jailed for short terms that fail to prevent reoffending because of a lack of awareness and availability of community-based sentencing, a leading former magistrate has said.

Rather than jailing or fining someone, magistrates have the alternative of imposing a Community Sentence Treatment Requirement (CSTR), which can be for mental health problems, or alcohol or drug dependency.

However, short custodial terms are being handed out “by default”, according to John Bache, former national chair of the Magistrates Association. They fail to achieve the objectives of sentencing and impact offender’s families, he added, even driving children to follow in their footsteps in some cases.

“I don’t see that short jail terms actually achieve a great deal,” he said. “The bulk of these people, who commit multiple crimes, they’ve got an underlying problem, which is mental health or alcohol or drugs or a combination of any two or three of those.

“The treatment for that is not to shove them in prison, because if they haven’t got a drug problem when they go into prison they’re likely to have one when they come out. The solution is to attempt to treat alcoholism or their drug requirements.”

Describing the justice system as “grossly underfunded” – the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) lost more than a quarter of its budget in a decade – Bache said the government needed to commit cash to ensure universal availability of CSTRs.

“The problem is those courses [CSTRs] aren’t always available and it is a huge postcode lottery. So you might be in one area of London, where the course is readily available but you go to a shire county and they just aren’t available.”

He added: “The crazy thing is that it would actually be cheaper to treat these people in the community rather than send them to custody.

“It is cheaper financially in the short term and it also be cheaper in the long term. You’re not going to get 100% success but hopefully it’s going to stop some of them coming back into the justice system into the revolving door of prisons.”

Two-thirds of people sentenced to a prison term of six months or less go on to commit a further crime within a year of being released. The reoffending rate is much lower for people handed non-custodial sentences.

Bache said the problem was not just funding but that CSTRs are not always incorporated into probation service pre-sentence reports – sometimes because they are not available – and some magistrates are unaware or unconvinced of their benefits.

He called for more emphasis during magistrates’ training on prevention of reoffending.

While the Criminal Justice Act 2003 sets out five purposes of sentencing, Bache said too often the focus was on just one – punishment of offenders – reflecting “the age-old English obsession with punishment”.

Short jail terms offer no opportunity for rehabilitation, he said, while for an offender’s children “their whole life is turned upside down through no fault of their own”. “Should we be surprised if their behaviour becomes unacceptable and if they themselves begin to demonstrate criminal tendencies?”

A MoJ spokesperson said: “While sentencing is a matter for independent judges, we are committed to tackling the drivers of crime and making community sentences tougher and more effective.

“We recently invested an extra £80m to expand community treatment services in England – the biggest funding increase in 15 years – helping thousands more offenders turn their backs on crime and better protecting the public.”

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Bauchi pays N3.418bn in outstanding gratuities

The Bauchi State Pensions Board has announced that, from May 2019 to date, the state government has paid N3,418,288,11.68 in outstanding gratuities owed to retired civil servants.

The Chairman of the Board, Senator Bala Adamu Kariya, made the disclosure at the ongoing ministerial press briefing in Bauchi, held at the State Secretariat.

Although Senator Kariya did not specify the total gratuity backlog, he noted that it exceeds N20 billion.

He stated that since the inception of the current Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration in 2019, a total of 4,273 people have retired, and 677 have died while in service, out of 4,948 files processed.

“The Board processes the files of civil servants due for retirement. We are the custodians of the processed files of all state civil servants who have retired,” the chairman stated.

Senator Adamu, however, said that in order to avoid further accumulation of pension and gratuity liabilities, the state government intends to commence the implementation of the proposed contributory pension scheme on June 30, 2021.

“As a sign of commitment, His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, appointed a 20-member committee, including a staff member of Messrs Premium Pension Ltd for technical guidance under the chairmanship of Mr. Abdon Dalla Gin (Special Adviser on Civil Service Matters).”

“In line with the Terms of Reference to the Committee, a final report with a draft bill has been carefully produced, tapping from the 2004 Act, 2014 revised Act, and previous efforts of successive state administrations like the 2005 and 2017 draft bills, and was presented to His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, as appropriate.”

He recalled that Governor Bala Mohammed had presented the report to the State Executive Council for consideration and approval, following which a draft bill was forwarded to the State House of Assembly for further legislative process in line with the laid down constitutional procedure.

“After gathering the necessary stakeholders’ input, the State House of Assembly then ratified the draft and returned the same to the Executive Governor for assent. Consequently, on August 5, 2022, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State, assented to the bill enacted by the State House of Assembly.”

“It was named the Bauchi State and Local Government Contributory Pension Scheme. The law also provided for the establishment of the Bauchi State and Local Government Contributory Pension Commission.”

“The state governor approved the constitution of another high-powered committee under the chairmanship of Ibrahim Muhammad Kashim, the Secretary to the State Government, to facilitate the full implementation process of the new scheme in the state.”

Kariya further explained that prior to this development, the state government appointed two firms of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs), who have now engaged stakeholders in a massive sensitization, advocacy, and enlightenment of the scheme across the state.

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Two-storey building collapses in Abuja

A two-storey residential building in Phase 2, site 2, Kubwa Abuja has collapsed

The building collapsed on Saturday morning at about 7:00am.

It was learnt that the building was formerly a hotel, Al-Hilal, but was converted to a residential apartment.

It was gathered that several people are currently trapped in the rubble.

As at time of filing this report, emergency responders and security personnel were at the scene.

 

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Police to enforce e-CMR compliance from July 29

The Nigeria Police Force have given all motor users 14 days to register their vehicles with the newly-introduced digitalized Central Motor Registration (e-CMR), which will end on July 29, to begin the enforcement of its compliance in order to checkmate the rate of vehicle-related crimes and other offenses.

In a press release, the Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, informed that the move is part of the efforts of the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun, to enhance the security of lives and property and significantly boost the nation’s safety.

The release further stated that the exercise is an advanced form of helping security agencies, mostly the Police Force, in their investigations and operational activities to combat vehicle-related crimes, including terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and other social vices.

It also stated that the introduction of the e-CMR digitalized system will help streamline the documentation and verification process for vehicle ownership and related transactions.

“Following the directives of the IGP, services such as change of ownership, change of license number, change of engine, and change of chassis/body would become seamless as the e-CMR system would ensure the validation of vehicle genuineness and ownership, enhancing the ability to track and recover stolen vehicles effectively, and preventing the purchase of stolen vehicles by innocent buyers.

“Prior to the enforcement itself, the IGP has ordered full publicity of the e-CMR and its enforcement to all members of the public, intimating them of the requirements, processes, and the enforcement procedures. Members of the public are urged to obtain the digitalized CMR certificate online at https://cmris.npf.gov.ng.

‘For further inquiries, individuals can contact the CMR Command Centre at FHQ Abuja (08117777666, 09169892000) and FHQ Annex Lagos (08117777555, 09169891000). Technical support is also available at cmftech@npfcmr.ng,” the release partly stated.

Following this new development, the Nigeria Police have enjoined members of the public to participate in the exercise by ensuring that all vehicle users comply with the new directive, maintaining that the initiative, which is in line with modern technology, remains a strategic approach to enhance public safety and national security.

ACP Adejobi further stated that the enforcement of the e-CMR is necessary to ensure a safer and more secure environment for vehicle ownership and to decimate the trend of vehicle theft by greatly reducing the possibility of selling stolen vehicles in the country.

“We therefore urge all vehicle owners and users to embrace and participate in this initiative promptly for optimum safety and security,” he stated.

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