A panel of community members could take the place of a judge in dealing with a wide range of offences, police say.
More than 100 offenders, most of whom have committed low-level crimes like vandalism and shoplifting, have appeared before a panel of community members to face up to their crime as part of a one-year Community Justice Panel (CJP) pilot project in Christchurch.
Police co-ordinator for the CJP project Senior Sergeant Roy Appley says it is one of the most successful projects he's been involved with.
"It's because it's actually getting to the reasons why people are committing crimes and doing something about it, rather than just punishment. It's got real potential to make a difference in people's lives," he told The Press.
"I think we are unlimited in the type of offending that goes before the panel, and furthermore, we could use the same forum to address problems in the community before offences are committed."
Under the pilot project, police refer low-level offenders to a panel of community members who consider the case, discuss the crime with the offender and deliver sanctions like reparation and community service.
Figures showed that since July 2011, 89 per cent of offenders have complied with orders set by the community panel members.
Sen Sgt Appley said the offenders selected for the project were mostly first-timers who had committed low-level crimes and admitted guilt.
"Police manage the case in exactly the same way we would with any case, except offenders are held accountable without getting a conviction," he said.
An offender could spend up to an hour talking with the panel, compared to just a few minutes before a judge in court.