Skip to main content

Community Justice

Volume 453: debated on Monday 27 November 2006

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has made the following written ministerial statement:

“As announced in paper “Delivering Simple, Summary, Speedy Justice” published in July 2006, the Government wish to establish 10 further community justice initiatives. This is to build on the community justice initiatives already underway at the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre and the Salford Magistrates' Court. Community justice makes a key contribution to the Government's Respect Action Plan, which was published in January 2006. It aims to strengthen the links between the courts, the criminal justice system and the local community so that local people's confidence in the work of the courts and the wider criminal justice system increases. In particular we want to build on the work judges and magistrates already carry out to deliver community justice. Magistrates demonstrate a huge commitment to public service and to making their communities better and safer places to live.

I can announce today that we will be extending community justice to Birmingham, Bradford, Devon and Cornwall, Kingston upon Hull, Leicestershire, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough and Nottingham. Additionally, we will develop two initiatives in London. We will now work with the local agencies and the judiciary in those areas to establish details of how these initiatives will operate in practice and precisely where they will be located.

The aim of this next phase of community justice work will be to provide further learning and best practice so that in the long term the principles of community justice are applied in the courts and the criminal justice system throughout England and Wales. In doing this, we will give the local areas flexibility to adapt community justice to their needs and circumstances so that the needs of their community are met in the way that works best for them. These initiatives will be founded, however, on the following key principles:

Courts connecting to the community. There should be significant liaison between the courts and the local community so that local people should value the courts as a community resource. Examples of this include holding regular meetings with community representatives, working with local crime and disorder reduction partnerships or police consultative groups and attending community events. The community should also be able to put forward its view on the impact that the crime has had on it so that the court has a view of the wider context of the crime. We will look at how this might be achieved in this new phase of community justice work.

Justice seen to be done. Local people should be better informed about the work of the court and have an opportunity to put forward its views on the way offending is tackled. Compliance with the court's orders or other penalties should be seen and recognised by the community with their problems are addressed. We will look in detail at the involvement of the community in the establishment of the court. Local magistrates, whose contribution to their local communities is already recognised as important, will volunteer to take part in the new schemes and the community already provides input to the advisory committees that make recommendations on the appointment of magistrates.

Cases handled robustly and speedily. Community justice should enable swift resolution of cases through rigorous and effective case management as well as harnessing the combined potential of a range of agencies working together. Increasing speed in listing cases, reducing delays created by unnecessary adjournments, ensuring offenders begin sentences promptly and acting swiftly on failures to turn up to court or comply with sentence will all contribute towards increasing community confidence in the effectiveness of the court. Much of this has been fed into the wider “Delivering Simple, Summary, Speedy Justice” paper.

Strong independent judiciary. The judiciary carry enormous authority over offenders and criminal justice agencies and thus have a potentially powerful role to play in promoting compliance with court orders and tackling offending behaviour. Community justice should enable the judiciary to direct hearings, lead the problem solving approach, and maintain oversight over offenders' progress post-sentence.

Solving problems and finding solutions. Problem solving is at the heart of the community justice approach in the Court. In essence, it means making use of a range of available service providers in order to address and tackle the underlying causes of offending. Problem solving can operate both at a community level—tackling safety concerns raised by local people—and also when dealing with individual offenders at court.

Working together. This enables consistency, builds trust and promotes a team approach to decision making and dealing with offenders. Collaboration ensures that a range of agencies, necessary for problem solving, are available to the court. In sum it empowers the court to deliver an end-to-end service to offenders, victims and the community.

Repairing harm and raising confidence. Victims and witnesses must be kept fully informed and supported from their first contact with the system until after the case has concluded. The new schemes will seek the views of the community on what projects should be the subject of unpaid work requirements imposed as part of a community punishment order; for example, through newsletters, advertising or by canvassing views at public meetings. These unpaid work projects should then be badged once completed so the community can see what has been achieved.

Reintegrating offenders and building communities. Community justice can play a crucial role in improving social bonds and cohesion within the community. More specifically, this involves developing pathways to support the re-integration of offenders back into their community.

I believe these new community justice initiatives will build on the achievements of the North Liverpool and Salford projects. They will demonstrate further how the courts, the wider criminal justice system and the public can be brought Closer together to foster new relationships that work to make justice better for everyone.”