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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Neighbourhood court for Liverpool
Liverpool's Royal Liver building, left, and a New York police patrol car outside the Lincoln Centre
New York-style local justice is being exported to Liverpool, left
The UK's first "local court for local problems" is to be built in Liverpool.

The one-stop Community Justice Centre, based on a US model, will tackle anti-social behaviour by both punishing and helping offenders.

It will hand out sentences such as cleaning up graffiti and provide help like debt advice and drug treatment.

It is hoped the 3m pilot centre, in an unnamed location in the north of the city, will eventually be copied in other cities in England and Wales.

The centre is part of Home Secretary David Blunkett's drive against anti-social behaviour.

It will include a courtroom as a kind of hub around which all sorts of criminal justice agencies and social services are based, in the hope they will work quickly and effectively together.

As well as handing out community service orders as punishment, the centres will provide services such as drug treatment, family and parenting support and education and training.

The yobs that paint the graffiti or damage the trees should be sent out immediately to clear the paint and plant saplings
Chief Constable Norman Bettison
"The centre will act as focal point for the community's fight against the selfish minority whose loutish and criminal behaviour is impairing their quality of life," Home Secretary David Blunkett said.

Constitutional Affairs Secretary Lord Falconer said it would be "tackling individual underlying problems" as well as "giving local people quick and visible pay-back for the crimes they have suffered".

He hoped this would "strengthen confidence in the criminal justice system and show that it is there to serve and to respond to the needs of everyone in the community".

The justice centres are based on the Red Hook Community Court in New York.

New York model

There, Judge Alex Calabrese hands down punishments such as street cleaning, which are aimed at helping victims. He can also make criminals seek drug treatment.

The judge also introduced the idea of monthly meetings with community leaders who identify where the problems are.

The yobs that paint the graffiti or damage the trees should be sent out immediately to clear the paint and plant saplings
Chief Constable Norman Bettison
UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith QC, who visited the Red Hook court earlier this year, said it had made a "real difference" to the community.

"It works because penalties can be tailored to meet the needs of the offender, and are backed up by practical help - from getting off drugs to finding a house and a job - to help people out of a life of crime."

Merseyside Police welcomed the initiative, with Chief Constable Norman Bettison saying he hoped it would help the "sad rather than bad" and get them out of the "revolving door" of criminal justice.

"There is still this anti-social behaviour and hooliganism in the midst of many communities, and this makes them feel angry and intimidated," he said.

"The yobs that paint the graffiti or damage the trees should be sent out immediately to clear the paint and plant saplings.

"That is community justice and more of a deterrent than what happens at the moment."

The centre is a joint initiative by the three criminal justice departments - the Home Office, the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The development of Community Justice Centres was outlined in Mr Blunkett's recent White Paper on anti-social behaviour.

Full details of the location and services of the pilot court in Liverpool will be announced by the end of the year.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"David Blunkett is turning increasingly to American ideas"



SEE ALSO:
Justice centre 'will face big job'
10 Sep 03  |  Merseyside
Blunkett targets yob culture
12 Mar 03  |  Politics


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