Suffolk: PCC Tim Passmore to shine spotlight on ‘soft touch’ punishments for serious violent crimes
11:50 14 April 2014
Out-of-court punishments are to be put under the spotlight to ensure Suffolk is not seen as going “soft” on crime, the EADT can reveal.
Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore has backed plans to set up an “out-of-court scrutiny mechanism” to ensure offenders receive the “appropriate retribution that the public and victims expect”.
It has been devised by the Suffolk and Norfolk Criminal Justice Board in response to public concerns about the use of “restorative justice” whereby criminals, some of whom have committed violent crimes, have been let off without formal convictions in return for an apology to the victim, compensation or alternative resolution.
Mr Passmore said he was not opposed to the practice when implemented for less serious crimes, as intended, to give low-level offenders a second chance.
However he conceded there had been some “public disquiet” about the punishment and said he was not prepared to see serious crimes “swept under the carpet”.
“It’s absolutely imperative that the public has complete trust and confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole,” he said.
“There are certain instances where it has caused disquiet for the public and I’m here to see to that.
“I’m not opposed to restorative justice but we need to be absolutely clear that if we use these alternative mechanisms that they provide the appropriate retribution that the public and the victims expect.
“What we need to do is put it under the microscope and make sure it’s really working and the victims are truly satisfied
“I do believe in giving people a second chance but we cannot be seen as having a system that appears to be a soft touch.”
The Police and Crime Panel report in which the scrutiny mechanism scheme is mentioned as background to a meeting planned for April 25, highlights public concerns with the restorative justice system, also known as community resolution.
Although its authors claim that “many people like the idea of an immediate response from the ‘bobby on the beat’”, it also concedes that “victims sometimes feel the offences are not always taken seriously”.
“Last year the PCC and Chief Constable were questioned about violent criminals being dealt with by community resolution,” the report adds.
The latest police statistics show that the practice has decreased over time. A quarter of all crimes solved between July and September in 2012, were dealt with by restorative justice, where as only 17% were between October and December 2013.
In 2012 the EADT reported that since community resolutions were introduced in 2009 there had been 8,439 over the three years, but 13% have involved offenders who had already gone through the process and one in three were for offenders with some form of criminal record
A Freedom of Information request submitted in 2013 also revealed that crimes dealt with by resolutions have included common assault, threats to kill, wounding and GBH.
A Suffolk police spokesman said at the time that guidelines are set out nationally and adhered to, which ensures their use is proportionate and appropriate.
“The views and wishes of the victim are always at the forefront of our policing and as such each offence is assessed on a case-by-case basis and discussed with the victim,” they added.