More offenders to be dealt with away from courts

MORE low-level offenders in the Scarborough area could be dealt with out of the court system.

Police in the town are planning to increase the scope of the restorative justice programme, whereby offenders often meet with the victims of their crimes rather than appear before magistrates or a judge.

Over the past two years, restorative justice has been used on youth offenders, with 430 youth restorative disposals being handed out in the Scarborough area.

From late September, the scheme will be rolled out to deal with some adult offenders as well.

Police hope the use of community resolution disposals will free up the courts to deal with more serious matters and allow police officers to spend less time on paperwork.

Sergeant Jacqui Raynor, of Scarborough Police, has led the youth restorative justice programme in the area.

She said: “The community resolution disposal will focus on low level offending, first time offenders and victim consent and restoration.

“It essentially a problem solving tool and can also be used effectively to resolve anti-social behaviour.”

Sergeant Raynor added: “The feedback from victims has been excellent, stating they get the opportunity to express their feelings about the incident and how it made them feel.

“It also enables them to have involvement in the outcome which is usually positive.

“The use of out of court disposals can be a sensitive subject, however, victims consistently tell us that when used correctly, they are the right thing to do.”

A number of factors will be taken into account before police offer offenders and victims an out of court disposal. They will include the record of the offender, the chance of the offender re-offending and the opinion of the victim.

Chief Inspector Neil Burnett, head of custody at North Yorkshire Police, said restorative justice had been a success story in North Yorkshire and that it could reduce reoffending.

He also said that in light of the financial climate, the process would make savings in the criminal justice system.

It is predicted that the number of criminals dealt with in the court system could fall from 9,000 to 7,700, with 45 per cent of cases being diverted from the court system - an increase of 10 per cent.