Portsmouth will have first ‘peer court’ in UK

PIONEERS PC Mark Walsh and Casey Taylor, who wants to sit on a youth court
PIONEERS PC Mark Walsh and Casey Taylor, who wants to sit on a youth court

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A COURT where young people decide the punishment of their peers who have committed low-level crime will sit in Portsmouth from next year.

PC Mark Walsh of Hampshire Constabulary visited six cities across America earlier this year to find out about the ‘community court’ concept.

Funding has now been approved for south-east Hampshire to have the first such court in the country.

At a presentation about the community court yesterday, which will sit at a mock law courtroom at the University of Portsmouth, Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes said the aim of the courts is to put people off committing crime and bring them face to face with their victim.

‘It is going to bring together the victim of the crime and the perpetrator of the crime so there is an understanding of what effect that offence had on the victim,’ he said. ‘There is no compulsion on the victim to attend or for the perpetrator to take part.

‘We are being watched by the government and the criminal justice system.’

Mr Hayes has released funding for three years to cover the project.

Volunteers will be recruited during January and will receive training. The first cases will be held in April. More serious cases will continue to be heard by magistrates and judges.

The successful volunteers will be able to give punishments to less serious offences which are currently handed out by the police.

Hampshire Constabulary’s chief constable, Andy Marsh, told The News: ‘Too many people get drawn into reoffending and I think this project will not only help get young people involved in making their communities safer but it will also help those who have got in trouble to keep out of it. It is what building a safe community is all about which is what policing is all about.’