Yobs face justice by the people

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Vandals and yobs could soon be made to account for their crimes to members of the community after Corby was chosen to pilot a scheme administering justice outside of the court system.

A successful application has been made to the Ministry of Justice to develop a neighbourhood justice panel, which will hand out judgements on low-level crimes such as graffiti and vandalism.

The scheme is part of the Government’s pledge to increase the crime fighting powers of communities, while also saving money in court costs.

Panels have already been set up in Somerset, Sheffield and Norfolk and are being constantly set up across the UK.

Corby is the only town in Northamptonshire which is taking part, and the Ministry of Justice will train 10 people in the town.

The panel will be overseen by a trained member of the public, with no legal professionals involved.

The restorative justice panel will allow volunteers to deal with low-level crime and agree a resolution without the need for the incident to enter the criminal justice system.

The old Corby Unity group is being restarted for the project, with input from the council, police and local criminal justice board.

Corby police commander Insp Gary Williams is on the board which is organising the project, and says it will be used to help prevent violence and disorder.

He said: “It is not a punitive measure with members of the community laying down punishments.

“It is about community volunteers helping to facilitate constructive engagement between the person seen to be harmed and those viewed as being the wrong-doers.

“It will focus on resolving issues outside of the criminal justice system and reducing the chance of issues escalating into criminality and harming local communities.”

Harry Graham, of Chestnut Avenue, is one of the 10 people being trained as a facilitator.

He said: “It is about the young people not having a criminal record and giving them a chance to reflect and apologise.

“Some kids don’t get a chance.

“I think Corby will benefit from it. We went to Sheffield to see their scheme and ours is more forward-thinking.

“There is a lot of work to be done but we are trying to get it moving.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We want to re-energise our justice system at a local level and reconnect it to the communities it serves.

“When it comes to anti-social behaviour and low-level crime, these panels engage local communities in resolving problem behaviour. Offenders can deliver agreed acts of restoration that address the needs of the victim and recognise any wider community impact.

“A number of panels are constantly being set up in cities and towns across the country throughout this year to test and develop the approach. Our ambition is that panels should be extended nationwide.”

The panel the Corby volunteers visited in Sheffield deals with around 20 cases each month.

It has a 40-strong team of volunteers, ranging from 18 to 72 years old.