An appeal has been launched for volunteers to get involved and support the development of a Hart and Rushmoor Community Court.
The Community Court is a pioneering initiative aimed at diverting, supporting and educating first-time offenders away from crime by a peer-led court hearing. It empowers young people to formulate sanctions for other young people who have committed minor offences, putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice process.
The work of the existing North Hampshire Peer Court, based in Basingstoke, was celebrated during a special event at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council offices earlier this year. Originally funded and supported by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in Hampshire, the court meets weekly within the Basingstoke Council Chambers, with volunteers undergoing training to fulfil their roles.
Now, the court, which began as a three-year pilot scheme, run by Hampshire Constabulary, is set to expand into Hart and Rushmoor, following its success in Basingstoke.
Hampshire Constabulary refers suitable cases to the court, and a panel of volunteers listen to the facts of the case, as well as acting as advocates for the offender and for the victim. Both the respondent and victim are invited and advocates are allocated to support them through the process. The panel then hears from both sides and hears about the impact of the incident, before deciding on appropriate interventions for the young person. The panel then uses a set of criteria to decide which outcome would be the most appropriate in the circumstances. Possible outcomes include an apology letter, referral to diversionary activities, reparation and a face-to-face apology.
Cllr Simon Bound, chairman of the Safer North Hampshire Community Safety Partnership, said: “We hope this scheme leads offenders to a more positive path in life, as evidence shows that young people tend to respond better to their peers of a similar age, and are more likely to make changes to their behaviour in future.”
The Community Court is part of a wider restorative justice programme, and complements existing provisions. It does not replace existing criminal courts for young people (Youth Courts).
Volunteers should be aged between 14-25 years old, and able to help on a Monday evening at Rushmoor Borough Council offices, at Farnborough Road, Farnborough.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hart and Rushmoor Community Court will be established over the next six months.