Volunteers trained for community panels designed to stop re-offending

Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed with new Community Justice Panel volunteers being trained at Sheffield Town Hall
Cllr Shaffaq Mohammed with new Community Justice Panel volunteers being trained at Sheffield Town Hall
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SHEFFIELD’S innovative community justice panel programme has taken a stride forward, with a batch of 18 new recruits trained to run the system.

Community justice panels, introduced city-wide in August 2009, bring victims and wrongdoers together to resolve the harm caused by anti-social behaviour, disputes between neighbours and crimes such as minor criminal damage and assault.

Volunteer facilitators are vital to the system.

Their role is to help each party explain their side of the story and agree an appropriate way for the wrongdoer to make amends.

The latest volunteers takes the number of facilitators to 55 in all.

Businessman Tom Chrisp has facilitated six panels since he became a volunteer in early 2010.

He said: “It’s hard work organising and running panels but I think the outcomes in terms of people getting on better with their neighbours, or putting things right themselves, are really worthwhile.

“All the panels I’ve been involved with have resulted in both parties coming to an agreement.”

Sheffield Council says the system is showing signs of reducing re-offending rates, particularly among young people.

Since it was introduced there have been 156 referrals and of the 83 young people identified as wrongdoers, only four have gone on to re-offend.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, cabinet member for communities, said: “Our latest volunteers come from all walks of life, but share the enthusiasm to help make life safer and better for people living in all Sheffield’s communities.

“They have already taken part in a detailed application and interview process to get this far. We know from the results of the panels so far that they will be making a fantastic contribution.

“We are always keen to hear from more people who want to volunteer.”

For details about becoming a volunteer facilitator call 0114 2736421 or email CommunityJustice@sheffield.gov.uk. For further information about the system and how it works log-on to www.sheffield.gov.uk/in-your-area/crime-reduction/communityjustice.