behaviour committed by vulnerable people. They said that a strength of community justice panels was that, since they operate outside of the criminal justice system, they are perceived by vulnerable “offenders” to be less threatening. Many participants described “lightbulb moments” where simply hearing a different perspective “from the person’s mouth” had brought about mutual understanding between the parties. Importantly, understanding the vulnerability of the other party often brought about empathy and respect. Participants reported that most cases were resolved successfully to the satisfaction of all concerned. 37 For example, one participant said: 36 See generally Home Office and Ministry of Justice (UK), Integrated Offender Management: Key Principles (2015) <. gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/406865/HO_IOM_Key_Principles_document_Final.pdf>. 37 A formal evaluation of the Sheffield Community Justice Panels has been undertaken: Linda Meadows et al, “Evaluation of Sheffield City Council’s Community Justice Panels Project” (Project Report, Sheffield Hallam University, 2010) <. shu.ac.uk/7053/>.
Walsh 168 (2018) 42 Crim LJ 160 Nine times out of 10, for a lot of people, they just want the apology … it’s opening up those lines of communication – of saying, because you’ve done that, that’s how I feel, how can we move forward? … It might be putting something right if there’s been damage done, it might be paying compensation. (police force) Another remarked: About 90% of financial agreements are stuck to … this is a much better way for harmed persons to get the full about of damage than to go through the courts. (local government) Two participants were less enthusiastic about community justice panels. One participant remarked that while community justice panels “should be offered because for some people it’s clearly a powerful thing”, they should not be considered a “mainstream solution” because: Too few offenders go, “yeah I’d love to meet my victim”, and too few victims want that … there’s always going to be victims who go “I don’t care, I’m not interested” or actually intimidated, worried, would rather not do this. … Everyone has to consent to this thing happening. (non-government organisation) Police officers can only refer matters to the community justice panels for resolution in circumstances where both parties have consented to the referral. However, one participant from a non-government organisation felt that the focus was on “victims’ rights” at the expense of working with offenders. This participant observed that “to deal with the problem by only doing something for the victim is missing the point, really”. Regarding the use of volunteers to chair the meetings, only one participant questioned the appropriateness of this – most participants who commented were supportive of the use of volunteers for this role. 38 In particular, participants said that the strength of utilising volunteers is that they are drawn from the community in which the “wronged person” and the “wrongdoer” live. One participant reflected on
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