James Cleverly, London Assembly Member, is calling for dramatic change in the way we handle teenage criminals. He will ask the Met Police Commissioner to introduce ‘Peer Courts’ – a programme outside the formal criminal justice system where teenagers, including ex-offenders, sentence their peers for minor offences. Sitting just beneath the justice system arm, they offer first time offenders an alternative to the criminal justice system.
James Cleverly said:
“Peer Courts, when organised effectively, have been shown in the US to dramatically reduce reoffending, with some programmes cutting re-offending rates to less than 10% – for those that complete their program. As well as delivering solid results, Peer Courts help young people avoid the criminal justice system, and are significantly cheaper as they are largely run by volunteers. When budgets are tight and when the Mayor has ambitious aims to reduce youth re-offending by 20 per cent, we have to think radically about how we handle young offenders.”
The system offers a mixture of restorative justice and punishment. Offenders are offered counselling, made to do community service and apologise to victims. Part of the ‘punishment’ is to join the jury for several weeks/months after your own ‘peer court’ case.
“It offers them gainful activity – being a juror gives them a sense of responsibility and self-respect, and offers life skills, such as leadership and problem solving. And for the first time, teenagers are seeing peers as positive role models who are judging them negatively for behaviour they thought was ‘cool’.”
The slate is wiped clear if the young offender fulfils all requirements such as attending court, becoming a juror and attending meetings. If they fail to do everything required, they are sent into the justice system.
Hana Ali, Vice Chair of Mothers Against Gangs said:
"We hear the term 'peer pressure' used too much these days when it comes to young people and this would send a positive message. We need to do things differently and this seems like a great new approach. We would like to see this trail led in Harrow.”
• James Cleverly will put his question to Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe and Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime at today’s Police and Crime Committee at 10.00am.