Policy Exchange said the experiences of individuals who had turned their lives around could not be put to good use because of a ban on ex-offenders.
It also called for magistrates to be forced to step down after ten years in a bid to reduce the average age of a group which remained "overwhelmingly white, middle class and old".
An expansion in the number of "problem solving courts" dealing with drug addiction, alcoholism and mental health would form part of a reform agenda published next month, the think tank said.
They would provide a "personalised approach" for non-violent minor offenders - seeing them regularly to check on compliance with drug treatment, alcohol monitoring and community service requirements.
And allowing ex-addicts who had become "respected role models" by not offending for five years and carrying out voluntary work or other public service to sit in the courts would make them more effective.
Under the present rules, criminal convections including minor traffic offences are a bar to becoming a lay magistrate, potentially included crimes committed by a would-be candidate's partner.
Among other reform proposals are ending the default of magistrates serving to the age of 70 in favour of a 10-year maximum term to " inject greater innovation and dynamism into the courts system".
Max Chambers, the head of crime and justice at Policy Exchange, said: "Magistrates could be the key to making it happen. They've been the pillars of our communities since their creation 650 years ago, but in today's world whether you're allowed to become a magistrate has got to be about more than whether you move in the same social circles as other magistrates.
French border chief says UK 'a magnet for illegal immigrants'
James Legge 17 DEC 2013
Philippe Mignonet, the French port town's deputy mayor, claimed up to 40 migrants a night were getting through to the UK, despite the UK and French border agencies' efforts to stop them.
He also accused Britain of hypocrisy for talking tough on immigration whilst allowing migrants to stay in the country, and called for border controls - a fundamentally "British problem" - to be transferred from Calais to Dover.
He told the Daily Telegraph: "The quickest, most radical and easiest solution would be simply to shift the border from Calais to Dover and Folkestone and then the problem wouldn't be handled in France but Britain.
"The ease with which illegal immigrants can work on the black market in Britain, coupled with the fact that migrants' family members can more easily join them, means that Britain is a magnet for illegal immigrants."
French interior minister Manuel Valls last week pledged police reinforcements for Calais, where many migrants make or attempt the Channel crossing, to deal with migrants.
He also said he had invited Home Secretary Theresa May to visit the town next year to renegotiate an arrangement under which Britain pays towards the policing of migrants in Calais, with British police and border officials operating on the French side of the Channel.
The Public Accounts Committee last week charged the Border Agency with failing to meet eight of its 19 performance targets.
A decision to prioritise passenger checks last year meant that illegal immigrant checks on freight had been suspended, the committee said.
Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: "The Border Force prioritised passenger checks on arrival at the expense of other duties and weakened the security of our borders.
"The force neglected to examine freight for illicit goods, neglected to check lorries in Calais for concealed illegal entrants, and failed to check passengers coming into Britain on private planes or boats, potentially letting billionaire gangsters off the hook."
Two charged over Twitter ‘abuse’
Joe Curtis 17 DEC 2013
Man and woman charged over apparently offensive tweets sent to feminist.
A man and woman have been charged over allegedly abusive tweets sent to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.
John Nimmon, 25, from South Shields, and Isabella Sorley, a 23-year-old from Newcastle, were charged with improper use of a communications network and will appear in court on January 7, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Criado-Perez claimed she suffered abuse on the social network site after her successful campaign to have a woman featured on a banknote, which culminated in the Bank of England stating that Regency era author Jane Austen will appear on the £10 note, likely from 2017.
The CPS had consulted police over charging five suspects who are alleged to have sent offensive tweets to Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy.
The evidence on one suspect was not believed to be enough to charge them with, while mitigating circumstances including young age and personal circumstances ruled out charging another, said the CPS.
A fifth suspect will face further police investigation before a decision on charging them can be made, it added.
Let criminals 'become JPs'
Steve Doughty 17 DEC 2013
Criminals should be allowed to sit as justices of the peace for the first time in more than 700 years, a prominent think tank said yesterday.
They should win the right to apply to become magistrates five years after committing their last crime, according to the centre-right Policy Exchange group.
The organisation, which has close links to David Cameron, said that appointing former offenders would ‘overhaul’ the magistrates’ courts which deal with 19 out of every 20 criminal cases
More than half of all JPs are over 60 and the magistracy is ‘overwhelmingly white, middle class and old’, a report by the think tank said.
It also recommended that, to help with the turnover of JPs, no magistrate should serve for more than 10 years. This will ‘inject greater innovation and dynamism into the courts system’, the Policy Exchange said.
The scheme would sweep away the rule which since the reign of Edward l has insisted that magistrates must be ‘good and lawful men’.
But critics said that opening the criminal bench to recent offenders would undermine trust in the honesty of magistrates and introduce the possibility of criminal sentencing motivated by corruption or revenge.
Magistrates have wide powers to set fines and community punishments and to hand down shorter prison sentences. They regularly deal with offences such as burglary and they can impose maximum jail terms of six months.
But Policy Exchange said former offenders would be especially well-suited to working in the ‘problem-solving’ specialist drug courts set up under the last Labour government, because they will understand ‘complex issues faced by those with addictions and mental health problems.’
The report said that ‘there needs to be an overhaul of the magistracy, which presides over more than 90 per cent of criminal cases. This should be driven by the involvement of ex-offenders who have turned away from crime and become respected, positive role models in their communities
New CCTV cameras switched on
Sarah Robinson 6 DEC 2013
The cameras on the Bournville estate have been paid for by housing association Alliance Homes.
The Mercury reported in September 2012 how there was a mixed reaction to the plans at the time and a public consultation was held in April this year.
Sergeant Colin Batchelor, from the South Ward police team, said: “This is a really positive development for the Bournville community.
“They asked for the cameras and we are really happy the partnership has been able to provide them.
“Crime has actually been reducing in the area anyway, and there have been 150 fewer victims this year in comparison to 2012, but these cameras will allow us to continue that reduction and most importantly, make the residents feel safe and confident.”
The cameras are linked to North Somerset Council’s existing operations room and will be reviewed in three months time.
Allan Milnes, housing services manager for Alliance Homes, said: “One of Alliance Homes’ key objectives is to help create safer and stronger communities.
“These cameras are a clear demonstration of that commitment and an excellent example of our continuing partnership work with the police.”
Bournville residents will be given leaflets containing the number to contact the CCTV operators if they see something happening in the area.
Ward councillor James Clayton said: “I am in favour of the CCTV if they are going to cut crime and antisocial behaviour.
“But there’s no point in having them there if they’re not having any effect and I believe the police and Alliance Homes have put themselves in the spotlight with these cameras to make it work.
Transsexual PC's case against Essex Police rejected
BBC NEWS 16 DEC 2013
An employment tribunal has rejected claims of harassment and discrimination by a transsexual police officer, the BBC has learned.
PC Emma Chapman complained she had to "out" herself over a police radio system when working for Essex Police.
But the tribunal said her reaction had been "extreme" and she had been "unreasonably prone to take offence".
PC Chapman, 44, was born male and underwent gender reassignment surgery 14 years ago.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the case brought against Essex Police was thought to be the first of its kind.
PC Chapman underwent gender reassignment while serving as a volunteer officer with Essex Police in 1999.
Four years later she became a full-time constable and now works on the force's response team. It is thought she is the only transgender officer in the force.
Legal documents seen earlier this year by the BBC showed her claim centred on three incidents when she had to speak to the police force's control room via her radio handset.
PC Chapman said that on the first occasion, in October 2012, the operator did not believe who she was, saying she had a "male voice".
She then replied that she was a transsexual.
PC Chapman said she was left feeling "very distressed" that she had been forced to "out" herself over a radio channel that was listened to by hundreds of officers and staff.
She reported what had happened, but claimed Essex Police failed to carry out a full investigation and interview the control room operator.
Two further incidents occurred in June 2013 when the officer was again challenged by control room staff who questioned her identity, according to legal papers.
Sussex Police set to employ 60 PCSOs
West Sussex County Times 11 DEC 2013
Sussex Police is accepting applications for 60 police community support officers (PCSOs) from Wednesday (December 11).
The search for the new officers starts as Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne reinforces her pledge to increase the visibility of frontline policing in Sussex.
It is hoped that the recruitment drive will see the new recruits join the Force by the summer of 2014 - providing the vital link between the police and the communities throughout Sussex.
Katy said: “I am very pleased to see recruitment open for 60 PCSOs, which will maintain the number of visible frontline officers in Sussex.
“PCSOs are the heart of neighbourhood policing teams and residents constantly tell me they value these officers in their communities. PCSOs work closely with local authorities, the business community and Neighbourhood Watch to ensure local issues are tackled effectively and knowledge and best practice is shared.
“I hope this opportunity attracts applicants from a wide range of backgrounds who want to make a difference in the communities they serve. It is important that PCSOs reflect the diversity of our local communities so that Sussex Police can continue to improve its policing response.”
Joining one of the Force’s neighbourhood teams, the new PCSOs will be the face of local policing. Patrolling on foot or by bicycle, they’ll fulfil a number of important roles - from dealing with low-level nuisance and anti-social behaviour, to forging links with the public and businesses. Providing reliable support to frontline police, they’ll help to reduce crime and reduce the fear of crime.
They’ll have the authority to remove vehicles and issue fixed penalty tickets, and to conduct other duties that do not require the powers of a police officer, such as directing traffic and guarding crime scenes.
Friends star backs ex-offenders to sit as magistrates |
Richard Ford Home Correspondent
Published at 12:01AM, December 17 2013
Former offenders should be allowed to sit as magistrates in specialised courts dealing with drug and alcohol-related crimes, according to a paper published by a think-tank today.
The plan is aimed at revitalising the system by giving younger people more opportunity to join the bench and inject dynamism into the courts system.
It would be a huge change to the criminal justice system as current .......
HARTLEPOOL is to see almost half of its force of Police Community Support Officers axed.
Hartlepool Mail 6 DEC 2013
The dramatic loss of the town’s PCSOs – from 41 officers to 24 through re-deployment or redundancy - comes as Cleveland Police is forced to slash its workforce as Government funding cuts bite.
And as part of the cost-cutting, police chiefs are trialling a new policing model for Hartlepool with the remaining PCSOs working alongside police constables and plain-clothes CID detectives together in one “super-hub” office.
Police bosses informed councillors of the move at a meeting at Hartlepool Civic Centre last night
Despite losing 17 PCSOs, the controversial reshuffle will see the town left with a total of four fewer officers than the current Neighbourhood Policing scheme, which saw a combined 68 police constables and PCSOs working from neighbourhood offices, and CID in a separate office within Hartlepool Police Station.
Volunteer PCSOs welcomed into force by Lincolnshire police and crime commissioner Alan Hardwick
Lincolnshire Echo 12 DEC 2013
The first Volunteer Police Community Support Officers (VPCSO) in the country have been welcomed into 'the Lincolnshire Police family' by police and crime commissioner Alan Hardwick.
Twelve volunteers will work alongside PCSO mentors as they work towards becoming VPCSOs and help the force police an area of more than 2,000 square miles.
During a ceremony at police headquarters in Nettleham, Mr Hardwick said he had every confidence that the scheme would work and that it was not policing on the cheap.
"This is not a new idea but nobody has ever brought that idea to fruition," said Mr Hardwick.
"They are the first of what I hope will be maybe as many as a couple of hundred volunteer PCSOs within the next two years.
"The scheme is being watched very closely by government and other police forces. I have absolutely no doubt that when it is a success other forces will decide to recruit their own VPCSOs.
"It is not policing on the cheap. These people will enhance the policing of the county and are not replacing anyone. They are in addition to the warranted officers and special constables that we have."
Mr Hardwick went on to say that the volunteers, although not paid employees, will be getting something in return.
"We will be benefiting from having volunteers but it is important that they get something out of the experience too," he said.
"It is a case of what is in it for them and that will vary for each volunteer.
"Some will be looking to help communities and offer support while some will be looking to build a CV.
"We will help them with that.
"I am immensely proud. I am proud that Lincolnshire is a force that has always punched above its weight and that we are going to be the first force to have VPCSOs."
VPCSOs will have the same powers of PCSOs and the initial twelve volunteers will start their training in February.
It is estimated that the cost of training and kitting out a VPCSO will be around £1,200 and police bosses say that investment will be repaid within 10 months with the hours they will patrol the streets.
One of the volunteers, student Lilly Collins, said she signed up for work experience.
"I am studying forensic science and I really wanted to get some hands on work experience," said the 19-year-old.
Queen 'Told Police To Stop Eating Palace Nuts'
Sky News 12 DEC 2013
Police officers eating nuts left out as snacks in Buckingham Palace irritated the Queen, the trial into alleged phone hacking at the News Of The World has heard.
The revelations about the Queen's feelings were found in an email sent by Clive Goodman, former royal editor at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid newspaper to former editor Andy Coulson.
A memo was sent to palace officers, telling them to "keep their sticky fingers out", the Old Bailey heard.
"Problem is that police on patrol eat the lot ... memo now gone around to all palace cops telling them to keep their sticky fingers out," the email read.
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC told the jury what the Queen apparently thought about the behaviour of the officers, according to Goodman's email.
"Apparently they were helping themselves to nuts," the barrister said.
"They were all being scoffed by police. That irritated Her Majesty, apparently.
"Queen so narked she has started marking the bowls to see when the levels dipped."
In another email sent in March 2005 by Goodman, the former royal editor claimed he knew the printer doing the order of service for the Prince of Wales' wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall and had a man checking out the wedding invitations.
"Only person to accept so far is Tony Blair," he wrote.
Goodman, 56, along with former spin doctor Coulson, 45, and a number of others, faces conspiracy allegations over misconduct in public office and other charges.
The court later heard that one of the accused, former NOTW journalist Ian Edmondson, is "currently unfit" and will take no further part in the trial.
Bristol's 'drunk tank' open for festive season
BBC NEWS 12 DEC 2013
Drunks considered a danger to themselves will be able to sober up and receive medical treatment at a secret location in Bristol.
It is hoped the 12-bed alcohol recovery centre (ARC) will help the emergency services by freeing up resources.
People in need of help will be taken to the "drunk tank" in a non emergency ambulance staffed by care assistants.
The centre, which opens on Friday, will initially operate just over the festive season.
'Not a hotel'
It is hoped the facility, staffed by three paramedics and three support staff, could eventually be rolled out on a more permanent basis.
The scheme, which is funded by the NHS, is run as a multi-agency partnership with police, the ambulance service, health organisations and the National Licensed Trade Association.
Peter Brown, from South Western Ambulance Service said: "The idea is to free up ambulance crews, hospital beds and police time by providing somewhere for people to go where they can be looked after," he said.
"The ARC is not a hotel or a B&B - you cannot check in for the night.
"This is really a place of safety until we can get somebody back to a position where they can look after themselves or indeed there is a relative or friend who can look after them," he added.
New role for Appleby's police support officer
Victoria Brenan 11 DEC 2013
Appleby's police support officer is off to a new role in the Eden Farmwatch scheme.
PCSO Gemma Threlkeld (left in photo) will be replaced by PCSO Karen Dakin (right in photo) and said she would miss everyone she got to know in the town over the past six years.
“I have formed close relationships during the last six years,” she said. “I am Cumbrian born and bred and from a farming background.
“I understand that everyone has individual needs and the farming community is one that I recognise as being unique.
“I am looking forward to developing in my new role and working with partners to encourage new volunteers to join Farm Watch.”
Sergeant John Chambers, from the Eden Policing Team, said she would be a miss to the area.
“However, her new role is vitally important to the rural communities,” he said.
“As Eden Farm Watch Development and Co-ordination officer she is looking forward to the new challenge.
“She enjoys learning new things and has many ideas how to progress this initiative.”
Since the start of the proactive side of the Farm Watch scheme, which began at the end of 2011, the number of reported suspicious incidents has increased from two per week to a recent average of five per day. Thefts have fallen by 13 per cent in rural areas, which police described as being “massive downturn” from a crime that had soared by nearly a third in the past four years.
PCSO Karen Dakin joined the Eden team a month ago. “I have worked as a PCSO for nearly seven years in South Cumbria, as part of the Kendal Rural East area,” she said. “I am looking forward to transferring those skills within my new role as a PCSO based at Appleby.