In the Media

Community court pioneer retains funding despite 'failure'

PUBLISHED July 11, 2012

Thursday 12 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi

England's first 'community' court has failed to cut reoffending rates, a Ministry of Justice report has revealed - but it will continue to receive funding for the next two years.

The report on North Liverpool Community Justice Centre (NLCJC), which opened in September 2005, combining courts and problem-solving agencies, finds no evidence of a positive impact on reoffending, and that offenders were more likely to breach orders than in other parts of the country.

Of offenders given court orders at the centre, 24% breached the conditions, compared with 17% in the comparator group for England and Wales.

Reoffending rates in north Liverpool have been consistently lower since 2000 than for matched offenders elsewhere in England and Wales - but the community justice centre has done nothing to improve the rate, the report concludes. In the three years from 2008, the centre had a lower proportion of effective magistrates' court trials - 36%, compared with 43% in all magistrates' courts in England and Wales - and a higher proportion of cracked trials, 49% compared with 38.3%, the report says.

However, it says there were signs of greater efficiency at the Liverpool court, with an average of 61 days between offence and conviction, compared with 73 days nationally. The number of hearings in trial cases was also lower, at 2.2 compared with a national average of 2.7.

The NLCJC offers a 'one-stop shop' for offenders, bringing together a magistrates', youth and Crown court with other criminal justice agencies and a range of problem-solving services, such as drug and alcohol services.

An MoJ spokeswoman said that while 'some offenders were generally positive about their experiences of the centre' there were no plans to replicate it elsewhere.