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.
Tim Relf 17 DEC 2013
Police ended up shooting dead a runaway heifer after it careered down a motorway and towards a school at the end of a five-mile pursuit.
It was feared the young heifer – weighing around 60 stone – would be a danger to schoolchildren about to emerge from classes.
The cow had bolted through four fences as it escaped from marsh land, starting a two-and-a-half-hour chase. It ran from its field in Farlington, Hampshire, on to the A27. Terrified by traffic, it charged up the sliproad, joining the northbound A3(M), where motorists phoned the police.
The busy road was closed while officers tried to corner it so it could be caught and returned home
World's shortest motorway opens in Leicestershire
Tom Mack 17 DEC 2013
The world's shortest motorway has opened in the county and the chances of long tailbacks are zero.
The mile-long road to nowhere has been created on a Leicestershire airstrip and is being used to train Highways Agency officers.
The agency has had the three-lane stretch of road painted on to part of the 1.9-mile runway at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, which is one of the longest in the UK.
It is being used to help Highways Agency staff train for situations such as putting up trailer-mounted screens around accidents or organising for vehicles that need towing.
Six of the agency's 4x4 vehicles are permanently based at the site and a classroom has been set up there.
Paul Atkin, general manager of business development at Bruntingthorpe, said: "It's as realistic as it can possibly be without actually being a motorway.
"It has the added advantage of a nearby fully-equipped classroom with all the usual facilities, so there's no travelling or delay for the officers, as they leave the classroom theory lessons for practical towing exercises on the motorway.
"To help the Highways Agency we provided a selection of vehicles to act as the stranded victims of motorway breakdowns and collisions."
While new Highways Agency staff still need to complete their training on a real motorway, the first 90 per cent of their course can be done at Bruntingthorpe.
He said there had also been inquiries from other organisations about using the motorway.
The training began earlier this year, but the motorway was extended to its current length last month.
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."
I was trapped in my car hanging off a motorway bridge
John Beckwith-Smith 14 DEC 2013
My wife Olivia and I were driving home to Sussex from our friends' house in Ayrshire. It was early November, and it had been raining hard the previous day and night. We'd left at 5am to avoid the traffic. As we drove along the M6, it was still raining solidly, but I felt comfortable, driving along the outside lane at about 70 miles an hour while Olivia read the newspaper next to me. What seems strange now is that earlier in the journey I was mulling over different scenarios. What if we have a crash? I imagined having to tell my in-laws that Olivia had died.
Three and a half hours into the journey we reached Haydock, Merseyside, when the car hit a 60ft stretch of standing water. We veered off to the left and crossed two motorway lanes as I steered to the right trying to bring it back. My body tensed up. I didn't feel fully conscious; I could feel my brain semi-shutting off to cope. I felt powerless, frightened. I thought, "This is either going to hurt a lot or it's going to hurt so much I won't come out alive." With an explosion of glass, my side of the car hit the outside safety barrier, inflating my side airbag. The car then continued sliding and spinning, as the front and sides sheared off the vertical posts. Then it swivelled until my wife's side impacted on one of the posts.
I shut my eyes and then realised we had stopped. "Thank God that's over," I thought. I checked Olivia. She said she was OK but sounded sleepy. I was worried she was going to lose consciousness, so I tried to keep her talking. She spoke to me, but kept going quiet and sounding dazed. Her legs were trapped.
Everything was covered in this very fine dust of shattered glass. I had no idea where we were. The windows had smashed and I couldn't see out. My fear was that we were in the fast lane, about to be shunted
A guy ran towards the car and started pushing down on the bonnet. I thought that was strange: why wasn't he trying to get us out? That's when he told us the back tyres were hanging over the edge of the motorway. I didn't quite believe him, and I think I was so relieved to be out of the fast lane I even felt it was not a bad thing.
Then the glass completely crashed out of my window and I looked out and saw tarmac. But when Olivia looked out of her side she could only see down. There was no road where it should be. There was just a 30ft drop on to the East Lancashire Road.
Neither of us moved. We could feel the vibrations created by the lorries as they drove over the flyover. There were strong winds and I worried that something big would drive past as the wind blew and buffet us backwards off the bridge.
The man who had come to help was a railway engineer. He told me to stay put, but I couldn't move anyway because the door had caved in, trapping my body. I wanted to stay alert and speak to him. We talked about our families. If this was going to be my last conversation, I wanted to have a connection.
Highways Agency officer killed as he helped with an accident on the M25
Heloise Wood 25 Nov 2013
A HIGHWAYS Agency officer from Gravesend was mowed down after a driver lost control going round a bend on the M25, an inquest has heard.
John Walmsley, of Doria Drive, was hit by a car on September 25 last year while waiting on the hard shoulder helping a man who had crashed on the same bend.
The jury at Tunbridge Wells police station on November 21 heard how the weather that day had been really bad.
Stephen Kocak, of Gillingham, was travelling at around 1.15pm when he lost control of his car by junction 5 near south Chevening.
As Mr Kocak waited on the hard shoulder with two Highways Agency officers for the recovery agency to arrive, a similar incident unfolded.
He said: "As we were standing there, I saw a red Vauxhall Vectra coming.
"Then the car had lost control. It was swerving all over the place. It swerved over to the right shoulder and hit him."
Fellow driver David Reeves, from Peterborough, said: "I was going around 55 to 60 miles per hour and it was going faster than me.
"It spun right around and was left facing the way it had come from.
"It hit the safety barrier with the driver’s seat and I saw the officer go up into the air. It happened incredibly quickly."
The Vauxhall Vectra driver Michelle Friend, from Essex, was visibly distressed as she gave evidence.
She said: "I was facing the barrier and I was about to crash into the hard shoulder. "I lost control of the vehicle and hit him.
"I didn’t know until the recovery man came up and told me."
Inspector Edward Widdowson of the Health and Safety Executive told the inquest that protocol for Highways Agency traffic officers was that they should stand behind a safety barrier.
It is thought he had not done so, probably because the ground was rough and very muddy.
David Kirk from the Kent Police Forensic Investigation Unit later analysed the scene and said the road conditions were not the cause of the crash.
He said: "The driver over-corrected her steering.
"She reacted to a perceived loss of control which caused an actual loss of control.
"The responsibility must lie with the driver."
Why was M62 closed for so long - council leader demands to know
Halifax Courier 4 DEC 2013
Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box has called for an urgent meeting with highways bosses following a multi-vehicle crash on the M62.
The motorway was closed in both directions following the incident involving two HGVs, a van and a car, which happened at around 5.20am on Tuesday.
The accident led to traffic chaos across the Five Towns with traffic queuing through Pontefract, Castleford, Methley and Featherstone as commuters looked for alternative routes.
Two lanes had opened westbound between junction 32 at Pontefract and 31 for Castleford by lunchtime on Tuesday but all lanes remained closed eastbound between junction 30 at Rothwell and junction 31 at Castleford until around 3.15pm, while vehicles were recovered and a diesel spill cleared.
Police said no-one was seriously hurt in the smash but the eastbound carriageway slip road at junction 31 remained closed for almost 11 hours.
Coun Box said: “It’s incredible that a major motorway like the M62 can still be partially closed almost 11 hours after a non-fatal incident.
“I acknowledge that the closure this morning was unavoidable but surely it must be an absolute priority for the Highways Agency to clear the motorway far quicker than this.
“This type of disruption not only has massive impact on commuters but also on local businesses due to the knock on effect on the local road network.
“The level of service offered by the Highways Agency on Tuesday was simply not acceptable. I will be seeking assurance from the Highways Agency that lessons have been learnt from this incident and that better communications and operational responses are put in place as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “Highways Agency traffic officers and contractors worked tirelessly since the early hours of Tuesday morning to help re-open the motorway and did as much as possible - including freeing drivers stuck behind the incident - before the police finished their vital investigation into the causes of this serious incident at around 1pm when we were able to fully get onto the incident scene.
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
Police officer crashes patrol car into £250,000 Ferrari in U-turn fail
M E T R O 10 DEC 2013
Police car crashes into £250,000 Ferrari
You might have thought a bright yellow Ferrari would be hard to miss – particularly for someone with a line in detective work.
But it proved too much for one police officer, who crashed his patrol vehicle into a £250,000 supercar while attempting a U-turn on Edgware Road, west London.
He was estimated to have caused about £2,500 damage after failing to notice the 458 Spider reversing, according to onlookers.
One said: ‘I have been filming supercars for many years around Europe but it’s the first time I have seen an unfortunate incident like this involving the police. It created quite a scene.
‘It was an amazing combination of a supercar involved in a crash with the police.’
The police car reverses, taking part of the supercar’s bumper with it (Picture: YouTube)
Footage of the aftermath of the embarrassing accident shows the silver BMW police car having locked bumpers with the back of the Ferrari.
As the officer reverses, a chunk of the supercar’s bodywork is torn off.
Now thousands have watched the mishap after witnesses uploaded videos to the internet.
One YouTube viewer wrote: ‘Kill your speed, not a Ferrari!’
The Metropolitan Police confirmed there was an incident on Sunday but said no arrests had been made
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.
Police loaned Lotus for drink driving campaign|
Police officers in the region have a new weapon in the fight against drink driving this Christmas.
The Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire forces are being loaned a Lotus Battenberg Evora sports car, in full Police livery, to help reinforce their campaign to promote safer driving.
Throughout December officers will be stopping and breathalysing as many drivers as possible.
I T V 9 DEC 2013
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.
M5 firework man cleared over crash
Press Assoc 10 DEC 2013
The organiser of a fireworks display held on the night of a fatal pile-up on the M5 has spoken of his relief today at being cleared of breaching health and safety laws.
Geoffrey Counsell, 51, said he believed the decision to prosecute him was "motivated by a desire to find someone to blame for this terrible accident, simply for the sake of doing so".
Seven people died and 51 were injured in the injured in the crash, which involved 34 vehicles and has been described as one of the worst British motorway incidents in memory.
Mr Counsell was charged with failing to ensure the safety of others, contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act, in connection with the tragedy which happened on November 4, 2011.
Prosecutors claimed smoke had "built up" during Mr Counsell's 15-minute fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club before drifting across the nearby motorway - engulfing cars in "thick smog".
But today a jury formally returned a not guilty verdict for the single charge, after a judge ruled Mr Counsell had "no case to answer" at Bristol Crown Court.
Speaking outside the court, Mr Counsell, of Ashill, Somerset, first expressed his "sympathy for all those who were affected by the terrible crash".
"I have been through an appalling experience over the last two years, yet I recognise that my misfortune is as nothing compared with that of those bereaved and injured as a result of that accident," he said.
Mr Counsell was originally charged with seven counts of manslaughter, but these were dropped earlier this year and he instead faced the health and safety charge.
A jury heard how a series of horrific collisions began on the south bound carriageway at 8.20pm on November 4 2011 - minutes after the £3,000 fireworks display concluded just 200ft away.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Simon ruled Mr Counsell had "no case to answer" as the prosecution's case had been based on "hindsight".
The judge said there was insufficient evidence to show Mr Counsell ought to have foreseen that smoke from the display could have drifted and mixed with fog to create thick smog.
His ruling - described by family members of victims as "devastating" - followed an application by Mr Counsell's legal team at the halfway point in the trial.