....The initiative sees “lower level crimes” - such as trivial thefts, public disorder, vandalism or common assaults - dealt with by police officers instead of through the justice system.

A decision is reached by consulting the victim and must be accepted by the offender. The result can be a verbal or written apology, financial compensation or repatriation or the offender receiving advice about their behaviour.

Mrs Gramann, however, is worried about more serious crimes being dealt with through community resolutions. In 2010/11, six were handed out for sexual offences and four for robbery.

....Superintendent Steve Cullen, West Mercia Police force leader on restorative justice, said he understood magistrates’ concerns. He explained: “The point to be made is we have done a lot of checks and balances.

“In a huge proportion of cases, it is young people involved, who can go on to have responsible lives as a result of not having a criminal record for a minor misdemeanour.”

Mrs Gramann said: “We have to stop reoffenders. Coming to court is more of a deterrent. When most people are in court they do find it intimidating because we have got powers to do all sorts of things.”

....Mrs Gramann said: “If it makes us more effective without compromising justice, then it is a good thing. It benefits the public purse, society and defendants.”

The magistrate said the court was under great financial pressure, with the number of courts sitting in Kidderminster having been reduced by a third since July, 2011.

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