Local communities to have more say in criminal justice

17/07/2009

From 20 July, residents of the Ruscote, Hardwick, Neithrop and Hanwell area of Banbury will be the first in the county to have a voice in court to describe the impact of crime and disorder upon them. New Community Impact Statements aim to provide the cou

Certain types of disorder such as burglary and criminal damage can harm whole communities.  When sentencing offenders, courts can take into account the impact of the crime upon the victim.  The use of Community Impact Statements will now explain the effect of the crime on the wider local community.

Under the scheme, the views of residents and businesses will be collected through the Rustcote Hardwick Neithrop and Hanwell Neighbourhood Action Team, made up of local residents and representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service, police, Her Majesty's Courts Service, local authority, local housing associations and voluntary sector.  The priorities identified will be included in Community Impact Statements along with statistics showing the prevalence of the crimes in the area.

The statements will be considered by the police and Crown Prosecution Service to help determine whether to charge or prosecute the offender.  Later in court prosecutors will draw attention to the Community Impact Statement to show what it is like to live and work in the area.  This will enable the magistrates to consider the impact the offence may have had on the community when determining the offender's sentence.

CPS Oxfordshire District Crown Prosecutor, Christine Pusey, who is leading the project with partners in Her Majesty's Court Service and Thames Valley Police, said:

"Often it is the so-called minor crimes that have a big impact on the lives of local residents.  As prosecutors, as well as assessing the evidence, we have to decide whether it is in the public interest to prosecute a case.  It is therefore essential that we understand what issues a community faces to make effective decisions. 

I welcome the introduction of Community Impact Statements which will enable us to respond to the communities that we serve."

Sgt Kate Beckett said: "These new Community Impact Statements will allow us to monitor the impact of crime on the community for the first time and will be used mostly in crimes that are impacting on people's quality of life, such as anti-social behaviour, vandalism and graffiti.
 
"It won't change the way neighbourhood policing is done, but will give the people living in those communities a voice in court when an offender comes to trial and allow what they say to be taken into consideration when sentencing is carried out."
 
Ends

Notes to Editors

1. Christine Pusey will be available for telephone interview on Friday 17 July and Monday 20 July (morning).  For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Lucy Chapman Group Communications Manager on 01189 513640 or 07764 212062.

2. Please contact Thames Valley Police communications officer Christopher Kearney on 01865 266030 to arrange an interview with Sgt Kate Beckett.

3. An example of Community Impact Statement is attached to this press release.

4. The Crown Prosecution Service is the Government Department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:

  • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution;
  • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute;
  • Preparing cases for court;
  • Presentation of cases at court;

The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.

5. CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.  This sets out the type of       prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.  The Protocol is published on our website at: http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/agencies/mediaprotocol.html