This is the archived version of Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner. To view the new website click here
Banner Image

Commissioner’s response – Community Remedy Consultation

4th June 2013

On 13 December 2012 the Government launched a new consultation on a “community remedy”, which will run until 7 March 2013. The consultation seeks views on proposals to introduce legislation to allow police and crime commissioners (or the relevant local policing body) to give victims of low-level crime (such as low-level criminal damage and low-value thefts) and antisocial behaviour a say in the punishment of the offender

Vera Baird QC has responded to this consultation and highlighted the need to consult as widely with possible about developing a local Community Remedy Menu for Northumbria. Mrs Baird expressed a view that consulting with local victims groups and communities attending neighbourhood policing meetings as well as using social media and the gathering the views of local councillors.

The Home Office asked respondents for comments on the potential benefits of the Community Remedy:

The Commissioner recognised potential benefits of the proposal, in making victims feel involved in the process and give a measure of satisfaction in a speedy out of court settlements, as well as potential savings in actual police officer time from using restorative justice methods. Particularly the increased time officers could potentially spend in communities rather than arresting and processing an individual for low level offences.

Mrs Baird also felt it had the potential in some cases to impact on the offender and make them aware of the consequences of their actions and may generate feelings of remorse through interaction between victim and offender.

The Consultation also asked respondents to comment on the potential limitations of the Community Remedy, or any concerns held:

However, there is also the potential for different sanctions for the same offence being available across the country with offenders receiving different treatment for an offence if one victim agrees to community remedy while another does not.

Mrs Baird endorses both the view of the Home Affairs Select Committee report published on the 15th February 2013 expressing a concern that The “Community Remedy” must not “become the modern pillory or stocks” and police officers must have the discretion to choose alternative disposals; and the Criminal Justice Alliance’s submission highlighting this point and citing, for example, whether any menu of sanctions would have appropriate in all instances. For example for application of potential offenders with additional needs such as learning difficulties, mental health issues or are immature who are accused of a low level offence. Police officers should again be encouraged to use discretion.

The Commissioner also highlight the issue of intolerance. Often the public’s tolerance varies, as it is subjective. What may be acceptable behaviour in one street or area is deemed nuisance and anti-social in another. For example children kicking a ball in one street may be deemed ‘playing’ and a neighbouring street deemed nuisance. Another is the tolerance of young people. For example young people congregating in a place for social purposes is often seen as threatening or nuisance by those of different generations. The menu of options should not limit the discretion of a police officer attending from mediating.

The Commissioner also advised Government it will need to consider measures to protect those reporting cases of ASB / criminal damage are not themselves re-victimised for raising issues against perpetrators.

Finally there is the further issue of clarity. The public is being offered the chance to participate more fully in sentencing by selecting from the menu but subject to the decision of  the police officer who may override the choice if s/he thinks it is “inappropriate” s90(4)). This potentially makes for a lack of clarity about who is actually making these decisions and runs the risk of handing a new power to the people with one hand and taking it away with the other, increasing their frustration and negating the potential benefits of making them feel more involved in the system. It would be better if the public were asked only to contribute to the decision on sentence and not told, wrongly, that they will be determinative, easier to manage for a good Neighbourhood Officer or PCSO.