Changes to Lincolnshire’s justice system have angered magistrates who fear the cost cutting measures will fail to rehabilitate offenders or give victims what they deserve.
A long serving youth magistrates in Skegness claims ‘restorative justice’ has been ‘snuck in through the back door’ and left his colleagues in the probation service ‘gobsmacked’.
The new system, by which offenders can be dealt with outside courts involving an apology or community service, is intended to give victims a greater role in the way a crime is dealt with.
However the magistrate, who did not wish to be named, claims the restorative justice introduced for youth offenders earlier this year, is actually failing victims, offenders and the public.
“It’s not giving the public what they deserve,” they said.
“The public don’t want an apology - they want the crime dealt with properly.”
In bypassing the courts and probation service, the magistrate also fears offenders will be more likely to reoffend.
They claim a police officer’s summary decision on the outcome of a crime lacks the specialist attention offered by magistrates and probation officers in court, who would carefully consider a range of possible punishments to offer justice to the victim and rehabilitation to the offender.
“If it’s not nipped in the bud, offenders will commit crime after crime after crime,” they said.
“And if they’re not going through the court system the offenders will not be dealt with properly so there’s a real danger they will reoffend.”
Inspector Andy Maurice was quizzed on how frequently restorative justice had been carried out since its introduction in January during Wednesday’s Skegness Town Council meeting.
Responding to Coun Danny Brooke’s question, he confirmed there had been 128 offences between January and May across East Lindsey, though he said only ‘low level crime’ had been dealt with that way.
The magistrate, however, has disputed the ‘low level’ restriction, claiming offences including burglary, assault and criminal damage have been dealt with under the new system, which concerns him greatly.
He believes the system has been introduced as a cost cutting measure, designed to indicate reductions in crime when in fact those crime are still being committed, just not heard in court or recorded.
With the decisions laying in just one officer’s hands, he also fears it is susceptible to corruption, and, if it is rolled out to include adult offenders, could result in the closure of courts through under-use.
A police spokesperson says there are lots of positives for restorative justice, for adults and youth offenders.
“The really important aspect is that it is victim-focussed and is all about what’s best for the victim, not what’s easier for the police,” they said.