North Lanarkshire justice team take custody of top award

A SCHEME aimed at helping offenders turn their lives round in North Lanarkshire has won one of the UK’s most prestigious national awards.

Members of the Restorative Justice Service team scooped the Howard League for Penal Reform’s award in the unpaid work category at a ceremony in London.

The team’s efforts were recognised from a field of more than 100 entries for their outstanding work to reduce crime in the North Lanarkshire area.

Justice manager Lillian Cringles said: “The community payback team at North Lanarkshire Council is committed to providing a restorative justice programme which is an effective and credible alternative to custody.

“We work with up to 250 people a week to develop new skills, improve their employment opportunities and reduce the level of re-offending. But the real payback is in North Lanarkshire communities where more than 13 Women’s Aid refuges were refurbished, recycling schemes were completed, and scrubland was turned into the Clydeside market garden producing more than 20 tonnes of fruit and vegetables.

“To win this award is a tremendous accolade for the entire team.”

The team works closely with a range of partners including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Forestry Commission, recycling projects and charities such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army and the British Heart Foundation.

Members have also worked closely with the Clanranald Trust’s Duncarron Fort project to re-create a medieval Scottish motte and bailey fort near Kilsyth.

Restorative justice also works with other council services. Children from 25 schools were helped to achieve their “eco flag” awards when offenders undertook preparatory work to allow the children to plant gardens they designed.

The team partnered NHS Lanarkshire’s “Keep Well” project, covering health promotion to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes in vulnerable groups including offenders.

Councillor Barry McCulloch, convener of housing and social work, said: “This is a prestigious award which recognises the excellent work being done by our restorative justice team.

“The achievements of each individual project in local communities across North Lanarkshire shows the success that Community Payback Orders can have as one option in the sentencing available to our courts.”

And the team was congratulated by the Scotland’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who said: “The community payback team in North Lanarkshire are doing fantastic work and they fully deserve this award. Community payback should be swift, it should be tough and we want to see low level offenders out paying their dues back for the benefit of the community.”

He added: “Teams are working hard to turn lives around – you only need to look at the example set by the Duncarron Fort project to see what can be achieved.”

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The winners of our community programme awards are beacons of best practice, and a key example of how hard-working professionals can succeed with those who have committed crimes and help them turn their lives around.”