Community justice: The power of the panel
Oct 29, 2012
"I could feel the tension and hatred when they came into the room - but three quarters of an hour later there were buckets of tears."
John Gallagher describes a neighbour dispute which had run for seven years and descended into an anti-social behaviour case.
It was finally brought to an end in a guildhall in South Somerset through a community justice panel.
He says: "When they heard what effect their actions had on each other the tears came and then the hugs and an invitation to a barbecue that evening.
"It was not solved by me but by restorative justice."
....[It] was two major crimes which lead to the setting up of the panel as a way to bring justice back to the town's residents.
The scheme's manager, Val Keitch, says: "There were two murders which were quite high profile and although Chard isn't inner city Birmingham or Manchester the perception was crime was happening and there was nothing happening about it.
"It was 18 miles to the nearest magistrates' court so the local newspaper ran a campaign called Bring Justice Home to try to get the court reopened which had closed the year before."
When it was decided reopening the court was not feasible the community turned to the restorative justice model - a method of justice designed to deal with a variety of offences in the community and involve residents and victims in the process.