Volunteers graduate for Hampshire Community Court

125th Street, Harlem, New York City.
125th Street, Harlem, New York City.
Alastair Gordon outside court in 2015

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IT’S an innovative scheme that hopes to tackle youth offending by using peer pressure.

And the first wave of volunteers will be graduating from their training tonight, before they can take on cases in the first UK community court.

Sixteen young people, between the ages of 14 and 21, will become judges, advocates or members of the peer jury at the Hampshire Community Court.

As part of their role, they will deal with young first-time offenders of low-level crime who have admitted their responsibility, and advise on appropriate educational, restorative and rehabilitating sanctions.

To qualify for the positions, they completed two months of training and have collectively put in more than 900 volunteering hours with the constabulary.

The Hampshire Community Court was the brainchild of Fareham police officer PC Mark Walsh, who was inspired by similar schemes in America.

He said: ‘I genuinely believe that young people can be the solution to a lot of problems in our society if only they are given the right support and opportunities to make a difference.

‘I am proud of the commitment our young volunteers have made to the programme so far which has demonstrated they are up to the important tasks ahead of them.’

The Hampshire Community Court will start in July and run for a three-year trial in the Fareham and Gosport area.

Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes said: ‘All of them have shown great enthusiasm to get involved in this innovative initiative – because they want to make a difference, because they want to help less privileged young people, and because they have been there themselves and feel they can empathise better with a young person than any adult ever could.’

The volunteers will pick up their awards tonight from Mr Hayes at Hampshire Constabulary’s Support and Training Headquarters in Netley.