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Rebalancing criminal justice” Potentials and pitfalls for neighourhood justice panes.

Clamp, Kerry Leigh
June 4, 2015

Source: (2011) British Journal of Community Justice. 9(1/2):21-35.

The coalition government have pledged a commitment to a shift from ‘Big
Government’ that presumes to know best, to the ‘Big Society’ that trusts in people for ideas
and innovation to mend Britain’s ‘broken society’. While the policy implications of this shift
remain opaque at this stage, further work has been undertaken to articulate what this
strategy entails (see Cabinet Office, 2010). Five key themes have emerged which promise
a dramatic shake-up of the system. This paper focuses on the theme that most closely
relates to notions of ‘Big Society’ – restorative justice. In the current economic climate it is
perhaps unsurprising that the coalition is supportive of restorative justice, as it mirrors the
desire to redistribute power from central government to local communities and individuals.
The Liberal Democrat experimentation with Community Justice Panels (now being referred
to as Neighbourhood Justice Panels or NJPs) in the run-up to the general election has been
highlighted as a measure that will be introduced to combat low-level offending and antisocial
behaviour. This is given particular consideration as it involves local communities and
victims themselves responding to offending behaviour rather than the state. NJPs, it is
claimed, have a dramatic impact on recidivism rates in comparison to the traditional
criminal justice process and a corresponding reduction on police time and resources.
However, as Crawford & Newburn (2002) highlight, England has traditionally adopted a
more punitive approach towards dealing with offending behaviour due to widespread
public anxiety about crime and political competition to secure votes. Thus, this paper seeks
to explore the potential implementational difficulties and resistance that may come from
communities and criminal justice practitioners, particularly the police, to this model. (author’s abstract)


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