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17 Mar 2015

Sian James MP calls for “Welsh solutions to Welsh problems” in campaign to divert women and girls from crime

Sian James is to launch a campaign calling for “Welsh solutions for Welsh problems” – a whole new approach to working with Welsh women and girls caught up in crime.

Sian James, who has represented the Swansea East constituency in Parliament since 2005, will be supported on the campaign by the Howard League for Penal Reform after she steps down as an MP in May.

At the campaign launch, to be held in the House of Commons next Tuesday (17 March), Sian James will unveil a 10-point manifesto urging Wales to build on developments in Welsh devolution and embrace a distinctive approach for women in trouble with the law.

The manifesto includes a call for women to be diverted from crime, with police working to resolve issues quickly, locally and cheaply.

Sian James, a former Director of Welsh Women’s Aid, will say that Wales should stop criminalising women who are victims themselves.

Arguing that “prisons are the past, Wales can have a better future”, she will call for the creation of women centres and the provision of more specialist support in the community for women at risk of offending.

Sian James said: “The vast majority of women in the criminal justice system are convicted for non-violent offences, whilst the women themselves are often victims of other crimes. Welsh women are no different from that. All too often problematic behaviour by women and girls is a sign they have welfare needs that should be addressed, including substance misuse or domestic violence and abuse. We don’t solve these problems by throwing women into prison and in fact we often make them worse.

“So I am calling Wales to pioneer a distinctive approach – distinctive in how it treats women from men and distinctive from what is done in England. I want to work with the police to resolve issues involving women quickly, locally and cheaply. Women who are victims themselves should not be criminalised and those at risk of offending or have committed a criminal offence should receive specialist support in the community.”


Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The Howard League is pleased to be working with Sian James on this important new campaign. At a time when Wales will be taking increased powers and opportunities, women who are troubled and troublesome can be offered a different and better future. We can work for a new vision together.”

The manifesto

Men and women are different; women commit different crimes for different reasons and we therefore need to respond in different ways.

I want to divert women away from crime.

I want women who are victims themselves not to be criminalised.

I want to work with the police to resolve issues involving women quickly, locally and cheaply.

I want to work with the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to develop more imaginative sentencing options for women to heal the damage caused by crime.

I want to set up women-centred options and women centres as I recognise that many women are, first and foremost, victims of crime.

I want to develop a restorative framework in order to engage women with the victims of crime.

I want women who are at risk of offending or have committed a criminal offence to receive specialist support in the community.

Welsh solutions for Welsh problems; let Wales foster its own more effective approach.

Prisons are the past; Wales can have a better future!

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. Sian James has been the MP for Swansea East since 2005. She is to stand down at the 2015 General Election.
  3. Sian James was praised for helping to feed thousands of families during the 1984 Miners’ Strike – a role immortalised last year in the award-winning movie Pride. She later became Director of Welsh Women’s Aid.

Further information

Rob Preece
Press Officer
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