First volunteers in new scheme to tackle anti-social behaviour

Published Thursday, 16th June 2016
Community Justice Panel Launch
Community Justice Panel Launch

Volunteers have been presented with training certificates at the launch of a new scheme in Rotherham aimed at resolving anti-social behaviour and low level crime in communities.

The Community Justice Panels is a new initiative which brings victims and wrongdoers together following a neighbour dispute, criminal damage, theft or minor assault. The panels are led by Rotherham Council, with the Police and Crime Commissioner supporting the scheme with a grant from the Ministry of Justice Restorative Justice Fund.

Fully-trained volunteers act as a facilitator between the victim and the wrongdoer, where both parties have agreed to resolve the conflict in this way. So far, nine volunteers have been trained to facilitate panels.

The volunteer facilitator will meet with the participants before bringing them together at a panel to talk about what happened and look at way forward to put things right.

Community Justice Panel Co-ordinator Carol Purvis said: “Referral to the Community Justice Panels is completely voluntary. Participants agree to take part and it is led by the victim. All participants are given the opportunity to speak, and through a structured discussion, the participants come to an agreement about the best way forward. Often, all a victim wants is an apology and an acknowledgement of the hurt and upset that has been caused.

“Volunteers will encourage wrongdoers to acknowledge the impact of what they have done and make amends to the victim and the wider community. This approach is not designed to punish the wrongdoer, but they are not a soft option either, as they make the wrongdoer face up to the impact of what they have done.”

Rotherham Council’s Advisory Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety Cllr Emma Hoddinott said: “Thank you to the volunteers for putting themselves forward and making a positive difference in their community. This scheme will give local residents an avenue to resolve issues quickly and locally.”

Volunteer Hannah Upstone added: “As soon as I saw the advert I jumped at the chance to volunteer. The concept is fantastic and as it is new to Rotherham I was eager to be involved in the development and launch, giving people (especially young people) the chance for redemption and offer an alternative solution to a criminal record. It gives them an opportunity to right a mistake that could have an impact on the rest of their lives. It can also offer closure to the victim or ‘harmed person’ which they may not get through the courts procedure.”

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said: “Community Justice Panels work by bringing together neighbours who have been in conflict or have had issues with one another. They are an important part of what is called Restorative Justice and I am pleased that we can now offer this aspect of Restorative Justice in Rotherham.

“There are times when low level crime is committed or nuisance behaviour takes place, and what is needed is for the two parties to get together and discuss their actions; consider the harm caused, and realise the effects of their behaviour.

“Thanks must go to the trained volunteers, who are invaluable to the panel and the reason this service can now be provided to communities in Rotherham. I wish them all well and look forward to hearing about some successful outcomes.”

Volunteers are still needed from neighbourhoods across Rotherham. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer facilitator to help victims and wrongdoers reach an agreement to move forward.

Email Carol Purvisimage

Call Carol on 01709 334566image