Celebrations mark the success of the Hampshire Community Court

The work of the North Hampshire Peer Court was celebrated recently during a special VIP event at the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council offices.

Invited guests, councillors, residents, members of the Peer Court and many others joined Safer North Hampshire* and Hampshire Constabulary at the event in Basingstoke to celebrate the work of the court. There was a mock scenario during the event, as well as the opportunity to find out more about how the court operates.

The North Hampshire Peer Court is a pioneering initiative designed to empower young people to formulate sanctions for other young people who have committed minor offences. The scheme puts victims at the heart of the criminal justice process.

A total of 86 young people who had committed offences have had their cases heard at The Hampshire Community Court since June 1 2016. Those who attend court are subsequently checked to see if they have reoffended after six and 12 months:

• Out of 35 cases (12 month reoffending data) four young people have reoffended.
• Out of 61 cases (six month reoffending data) seven young people have reoffended.

Now, the court, which began as a three-year pilot scheme, run by Hampshire Constabulary, is set to expand into Hart and Rushmoor, following its success in Basingstoke.

The court, which was originally funded and supported by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in Hampshire, meets weekly within the Basingstoke Council Chambers, and volunteers who have undergone training to fulfil their roles, run the court.

Hampshire Constabulary refers suitable cases to the court, and a panel of volunteers listen to the facts of the case, as well as acting as advocates for the offender and for the victim.  The panel then uses a set of criteria to decide which outcome would be the most appropriate in the circumstances. Possible outcomes include an apology letter, referral to diversionary activities, reparation and a face-to-face apology.

Cllr Ken Muschamp, Chairman of the Safer North Hampshire Community Safety Partnership, said: “We hope this scheme leads offenders to a more positive path in life, as evidence shows that young people tend to respond better to their peers of a similar age, and are more likely to make changes to their behaviour in future.”

The Community Court is part of a wider restorative justice programme, and complements existing provisions. It does not replace existing criminal courts for young people (Youth Courts).

Plans are now underway to roll out the Community Court project in Hart and Rushmoor in future.

The initiative is a joint enterprise between Safer North Hampshire and Hampshire Constabulary.