VICTIMS are continuing to have their say in punishments handed out for low-level offences in the Chard and Ilminster area after a pioneering scheme was brought back from the brink.

Members of South Somerset District Council’s Area West committee have been updated on the pioneering Community Justice Panel, which was set up with the help of your Chard and Ilminster News.

As reported last May, the project was thrown into crisis as funding ran out and its two professional staff had their roles made redundant.

But the charity was relaunched in August last year and is based at Yeovil Police Station.

It has also secured funding for this year and has an overall budget of £17,000, which it is hoped will continue.

Panel hearings involve trained volunteers, and sometimes the victims of the crimes themselves, talking through a restorative justice approach to punishment with low level offenders.

The report before councillors stated:

  • Sixteen cases have been referred to the panel since August with others in the pipe line.
  • Four of these cases were withdrawn by the referring agency.
  • Seven are being prepared for a panel hearing.
  • The other five have all been dealt with through panels and resulted in Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, or Acceptable Agreements which are in place for three to 12 months depending on the kind of offence.

The project has 18 fully-trained volunteers, with eight completing their initial three-day training course at the beginning of December.

A one-day refresher course for all volunteers is due to take place soon.

Service level agreements or letters of understanding are in place with the police, Yarlington Housing Group and Taunton Deane Council.

Councillors were also told that recruitment of a one-day-a-week administrative assistant has been completed.

Last May, councillors praised the project.

Cllr Dave Bulmer said at the time: “The volunteers have done a tremendous job and they must have saved the Crown Prosecution Service thousands of pounds.”