IT IS a system that puts offenders face to face with victims – and according to one Southampton charity could play a big part in the future of policing.

Now restorative justice organisation NFS Mediation has called on Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidates to consider the approach, which it says can cut offending and antisocial behaviour without resorting to the courts.

Voters go to the polls tomorrow to elect the region’s first PCC, who will hold the purse strings of Hampshire Constabulary and be responsible for the hiring and firing of the county’s chief constable.

Antisocial behaviour and ways to cut reoffending have been some of the biggest issues of the campaign, along with how to keep the force afloat amid some of the biggest budget cuts in its history.

Restorative justice covers a wide range of schemes to tackle crime – from sorting out low level disputes to tackling re-offending among repeat criminals.

It can mean victims get a chance to tell offenders about the impact of their crime while criminals can take responsibility for their actions by things like community payback schemes.

Some areas have even set up “community justice panels”, where victims, the police and other agencies get together to deal with more minor offences without the expense of going to court.

NFS Mediation says it ran a successful project with Hampshire Constabulary, but despite reducing unnecessary call-outs and saving police time and money, the scheme was axed in budget constraints.

The charity says it wants whoever is elected PCC to think again about that decision – and has written to all the candidates about the scheme.

Chairman Marguerite Willcox, pictured, said: “The idea of the project was that the police got a lot of callouts for neighbour nuisance.

“Officers would end up going out two or three times to the same problem. During the project, people were referred to us for mediation.

“The way we operate is to listen to both parties, to give them an opportunity to talk about what’s happened and to help them to find some strategies to move forward.

“It helps people to focus on what really matters.”

Of the 35 cases the charity got involved with, a year later police data showed that officers had not been called back to those that had had help.

NFS Mediation says it is hard to quantify how much the scheme saved Hampshire Constabulary, but studies have shown that restorative justice can help cut reoffending by as much as 27 per cent.

The charity will have to wait for the result to see if the winner will support the scheme.