Community Punishment Courts Getting General Society Involved In Tyranny

Daily Mail
By Fay Schlesinger
02.01.2009

Local people will be given a say in how criminals in their neighbourhood should be punished, under upcoming Government plans.

Petty criminals could face a public vote on the punishment they receive as community payback, ministers will propose in a paper to be released in Spring.

The number of community courts, where judges and magistrates determine punishments after discussions with locals, should be increased, the Green Paper will propose.

Community courts in Liverpool and Salford give the public the opportunity to decide which criminal or anti-social activities, such as graffiti, cause them the greatest concern

Community courts in Liverpool and Salford give the public the opportunity to decide which criminal or anti-social activities, such as graffiti, cause them the greatest concern

Existing community courts in north Liverpool and Salford give the public a chance to decide which criminal or anti-social activities, such as graffiti, cause them the greatest concern.

Local people can then speak to magistrates directly at community meetings, to push for harsher or more appropriate punishments for these crimes.

The proposals have the backing of the communities secretary, Hazel Blears.

She said at a Number 10 crime summit recently that it was ‘the most powerful thing’ when ‘local people got to vote on what it was they wanted the convicted criminals to do in their community.’

She gave the example of voting for the top three options out of ten types of punishment.

Justice secretary Jack Straw said recently: ‘Community punishments should be intensive, arduous and visible, giving local people a say in - and an opportunity to see - the work carried out by offenders.’

Home secretary Jacqui Smith has said the public should have clearer powers of decision-making about community punishments in their neighbourhood.

Citizens Panels, in which community members speak to the probation service about appropriate punishments in their neighbourhood, are already being piloted in Greater Manchester, Suffolk, Leicester, Hampshire, Wiltshire and North Wales, the Ministry of Justice confirmed.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said last night: ‘We are planning a Green Paper on community engagement in the criminal justice system in Spring.

‘In September we announced six pilot Citizens Panels to give communities more say in the type of work offenders carry out in the community. The Green Paper will be connected to those.

‘We can’t comment further at this stage because it is still being written.’

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