Doing justice locally: the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre

Professor George Mair and Dr Matthew Millings, North Liverpool Community Justice Centre
Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Doing justice locally: The North Liverpool Community Justice Centre offers the first non-government funded assessment of the flagship North Liverpool Community Justice Centre. As the first and most highly developed example of a community justice court in the UK, the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre has been a showcase for plans for community justice more broadly. Despite the considerable interest shown in the Centre both at home and abroad, published research has been limited to the first couple of years of operation since opening in 2005.

The report highlights the following:

  • Whilst it is not possible to compare directly the Community Justice Centre to traditional magistrates and Crown Courts, the Centre's much lower proportional use of the fine and higher proportional use of custody requires further investigation.
  • Involving the community' in criminal justice has proved a nebulous concept to apply in practice and raises wider questions about who should be involved, and how, and what do these engaged people do?
  • Given the status of the North Liverpool centre as the test bed for the community justice approach in England and Wales, and the prominence the Labour government founders gave to evidence based policy, it is surprising how thin the available evidence is about effectiveness of the North Liverpool Centre.
  • The recent Green Paper was positive about the key principles of community justice but questioned the `prohibitive cost' of Centre (p. 81 of the Green Paper) The report suggests the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre, as well as community justice in general, risks being sidelined by public spending cuts.
  • The publication of this report offers the opportunity to open a debate about the positive and more challenging aspects of the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre's operations.

Co-author of the report, George Mair, said:

`The problem-solving approach utilised by the court, its innovative use of partnership working and the role of the Judge are the keys to the operation of the Centre. It has pioneered innovative approaches to 'doing justice' that suggests a possible future for the delivery of justice in the 21st century. The Centre offers an approach to community justice which the coalition government would do well to learn from.'

Research Associate at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies Helen Mills said:

`Given that the North Liverpool Centre was one of New Labour's flagship initiatives, we were surprised at the lack of robust data collection on impact. At a time when all budgets are under scrutiny this will make it difficult for the Ministry of Justice to assess the impact of the Centre.'