Britain is to have its first community justice panel following a campaign by Newsquest Somerset weekly the Chard & Ilminster News.
The pioneering scheme in Chard, which aims to deal with vandals and other petty villains on a more local level, has been granted Home Office approval and funding to the tune of £13,000.
The News launched its Bring Justice Home campaign to highlight the remoteness of centralised justice and to underline the public’s lack of confidence in the criminal justice system when dealing with minor offenders.
The paper took the campaign to Prime Minister Tony Blair, the former Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine, local MP David Laws and the Home Office.
Hundreds of readers signed a petition in support of the drive to ensure petty offenders were dealt with on a more local level.
The justice panel, made up of volunteers from the community, will deal with reparation issues following acts of vandalism, criminal damage and other aspects of anti-social behaviour.
“The announcement is an absolute triumph for the News team and particularly chief reporter Belinda Bennett,” said Ken Bird, editor-in-chief of Newsquest (Somerset).
“It underlines exactly what a weekly newspaper working at the heart of its community is able to achieve