Essex

Trying to stop England's prolific offenders

Ministry of Justice

The approach used to deal with teenage burglar Bradley Wernham, which saw him initially spared jail and instead given the chance to give up crime, is often used to deal with prolific offenders.

The 19-year-old broke the law again and was jailed for five years but many prolific offenders do stop committing crime, said Lynne McKay, spokeswoman for Essex Probation.

Each probation service has its own prolific offending teams, which look at how best to deal with those who persistently commit crime.

Ms McKay said prolific offenders - who continue to commit crime despite serving prison sentences - made up just 10% of the country's "active offending population" but were responsible for half of all crime.

'Chaotic backgrounds'

She said these people cost society huge amounts of money.

"There is a relatively small number of them but they are totally chaotic," added Ms McKay.

"They are often drug and alcohol users, they are frequently admitted to hospital, spend time in police suites every week and are in and out of prison.

"They frequently have mental health problems, chaotic backgrounds and poor family ties.

"They will be committing offences to survive more often than not."

Instead of putting them back in prison, prolific offending teams look at why an individual keeps on committing crime and tries to help them stop.

"We try to stabilise them so they do not commit further crime," said Ms McKay.

Stabilising them involves a number of agencies working together and can include finding accommodation, providing education and training, ensuring they have the healthcare they need and changing the way they think about crime.

"What we are after is cutting crime, cutting their criminal activities and cutting the huge cost to society," she said.

Many offenders do stop committing crime - some do it immediately but for others, it is more gradual and can take a few years, she added.

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