A Case Study of an English Community Court

Published 17/10/2012
Type Article
Author(s) Daniel Gilling, Michelle Jolley
Corresponding Authors Michelle Jolley

This article reports on the results of case study research into the implementation and operation of a community court in an English city. The research was premised upon an understanding of the likely challenges posed by the introduction of a new modality of ‘doing justice’, as represented by community courts, with their more therapeutic and restorative orientation and procedural differences to ‘mainstream’ summary justice. It uncovered a number of implementation difficulties, including the unintended consequences of decisions about the location of the court’s jurisdiction; a lack of ‘joined up’ policy as conflicting initiatives served to undermine the court’s operation; and the resistance of practitioners which limited the capacity of the court to engage in the teamwork requisite for community courts. The article discusses these difficulties in the context of a critical understanding of government policy-making, with its emphasis more upon political and ideological symbolism than pragmatism. It suggests that in pragmatically taking forward the community court idea, serious thought nevertheless needs to be given to the appropriate location of problem-solving within the criminal process, and to the need for consistency in the more individualized approach of the community court, since both issues underpinned some of the difficulties uncovered by the research.