MORE volunteers are needed for a community justice pilot scheme as Swindon Council aims to extend it across the town.

Earlier this year Swindon was named as one of only 15 areas in the country to trial a new approach to tackling anti-social behaviour and low-level crime before it gets to the courts.

The Ministry of Justice introduced Neighbourhood Justice Panels, and the the town was the only area in the south outside London to put one to the test over 18 months.

Using principles of restorative justice, the panels, made up of at least three volunteers from the community, see offenders come face-to-face with their victims.

Among those who volunteered was Tony Packham, an aircraft engineer from Wroughton, who said he felt the panels made a difference in people’s lives.

“It’s been a real eye-opener for me and I think it really is putting something back into the community, rather than just sitting in the armchair and cursing the bad things that go on you can actually help the situation.

“One example I would use is a lad who was brought in for doing graffiti. He has a real talent for art but was doing it in the wrong place and so we sent him out to clean up with the anti-graffiti team but also organised for him to go art classes.”

Simon Evans, the anti-social behaviour manager for Swindon Council, said: “We are delivering further training for Neighbourhood Justice Panels, as we are now looking for additional panel members to add to the fantastic start that has been made in Swindon.

“Much of this success has been down to the fantastic response from the community in volunteering the first time around, but now we need to add to the volunteer pool so we can expand the panels in to the wider community.

“Swindon’s Panels have been a great success but we want to develop them further.

“We have dealt with street drinkers, neighbourhood disputes, and low level offending, the panels use restorative justice process to bring together offenders and victims, the result being a contract is developed that repairs the harm that has been done and puts in place provisions to stop further offending.”

The training will take place on January 19 and 26 next year. Anyone interested should email or call 01793 466047,