Lib Dems put community panels at centre of policy on youth offending

Panels of community volunteers would decide the fate of low-level
offenders under the Liberal Democrats.

People arrested for minor crimes, including those involving
graffiti, vandalism or drunkenness, would be given the choice of
going to court or facing a community justice panel.

The offender would have to explain and apologise for their actions
to the panel and agree to a programme of work, or repair the damage
they have caused. If the offender failed to comply with the
programme they would be sent to court for sentencing.

The plans were announced by the party at its annual conference in
Bournemouth last week.

Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrats spokesperson for home affairs, told
delegates: “Compared with sitting comfortably in court and
receiving a fine, going before one of these panels will be a very
uncomfortable experience.

“I want offenders to see the anger and hurt that they cause to
those living in their streets and their communities.

“But this is not just about punishment. It offers the offender
something that a court appearance cannot – a chance to earn back
the respect of the community and demonstrate that he or she can act

The first community justice panel is being set up in Chard,
Somerset, under a Liberal Democrat-controlled council.

The Lib Dems have also proposed sending joyriders on car mechanic
courses to stop them reoffending. Oaten said that, although
joyriders needed to be punished, he was unconvinced that punishment
alone deterred them from doing it again but that sending them on a
course about how the car worked might do so.

Oaten spoke of his frustration with the media’s portrayal of his
party’s approaches towards crime. He said: “It angers me immensely
that tomorrow there will be a headline in the papers saying
‘Liberal Democrat rewards joyriders with courses’.”

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