New Project Could Mean Victims Decide Punishment For Criminals To Save Police Time

PUBLISHED: 14:34 06 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:49 04 May 2010

VICTIMS could come face-to-face with criminals to save police officers dealing with what they term local crime . A police-run Restorative Justice project, will operate in Cambridge for six months from June, and, if successful, could be implemented acro

VICTIMS could come face-to-face with criminals to save police officers dealing with what they term "local crime".

A police-run Restorative Justice project, will operate in Cambridge for six months from June, and, if successful, could be implemented across the county, in a similar test to the 2008 Sex Offenders Disclosure, which started in Peterborough and was rolled-out county-wide last month.

In a report to Cambridgeshire councils, chief constable Julie Spence said it would be at officers' discretion to "exercise their personal judgement."

Restorative Justice has already been used alongside court proceedings, but this is the first time it will be used instead of criminal prosecutions.

Police can insist on verbal or written apologies, or "bespoke acts of reparation" such as cleaning off graffiti - and as long as the officer thinks the victim's punishment is "proportionate" then it is the victim, who will decide the penalty.

Council leader Fred Brown, who was arrested for giving a man who insulted his wife a clip round the ear two years ago and later acquitted, welcomed the proposals.

"This will be used in selective cases," he told the Ely Standard, "and it will save an awful lot of back office time. You are talking about 12 or 15 hours of officer time just to get someone in front of a youth court."

He added: "The object of the exercise is to catch them young then put them through a process which makes them understand the effect they are having on the community instead of arresting them at the first opportunity. The victim will be able to decide on the punishment, but we are not talking about 15 lashes here."

The Ely Standard asked Mrs Spence for an interview, but we were told she did not want to do interviews until the controversial project was nearing its first outing. Neither could we speak to the officer leading the project, who is away on paternity leave.

In a similar move to involve the public in law-defining decisions, The Ministry of Justice announced on Monday that Peterborough will be one of 59 UK areas where members of the public decide community punishments in an online vote.

Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw said: "It's crucial that the public - the taxpayer - has a say in what community punishments offenders receive. People have a right to know what offenders are doing in their neighbourhood to repay for the wrongs committed.

"We are determined to open up the justice system. Recent steps to do this include the appointment of a dedicated Victims Champion, giving distinctive orange jackets to offenders and now ensuring the public knows they have a say in punishing offenders."

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Are you concerned about these proposals? Write to us at Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely CB7 4LS or email editor@ely-standard.co.uk.


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