Offender said 'no' to payback vest

A convicted criminal refused to wear a high-visibility jacket while carrying out unpaid work in the community, saying he would be embarrassed and humiliated, a court heard yesterday.

A convicted criminal refused to wear a high-visibility jacket while carrying out unpaid work in the community, saying he would be embarrassed and humiliated, a court heard yesterday.

Kane Beales failed to don the community payback vest after he was asked to put it on by Norfolk Probation Service as part of his punishment for possessing an offensive weapon.

The orange vests were introduced in the county at the beginning of the year as part of a much-heralded Ministry of Justice initiative to show the public that justice is being done.

Yesterday, district judge Philip Browning heard Beales, 19, took umbrage at wearing the jacket after he was handed one in February 18 by Yarmouth probation officers.

Because Beales, of Finisterre Rise, Caister, refused to wear the garment, he could not join eight other offenders in clearing up undergrowth at a church.

During his trial at Yarmouth Magistrates' Court for refusing to carry out unpaid work as instructed, Beales said if he wore the jacket it would lead to him being humiliated and embarrassed as he would be recognised as a convicted criminal.

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Ian Fisher, prosecuting for the Norfolk Probation Service, said: “The public and taxpayer have an absolute right to know what unpaid work is being done. They must see that justice is being done.

“Even if it caused a degree of embarrassment, is that enough to defeat this legitimate objective of the justice system?”

When asked why he objected to the wearing the community payback jacket, Beales said: “Just the embarrassment, really.

“The fact you are advertising you have done something wrong. You don't need the whole world to know it.

“I don't want to wear it with that writing on the back. I don't want to be subject to humiliation.

“I can't see why I should have to wear it. If somebody walked past, I would feel singled out.”

Last September, Beales was sentenced to carry out 220 hours' unpaid work after he was convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.

By the beginning of the year, he had performed half the hours necessary - but the vast majority involved receiving help from Learndirect for his dyslexia.

Peter Burley, the probation service's offender manager, said that up until February Beales had an almost perfect attendance and compliance record.

Annette Hall, representing Beales, said her client was fully prepared to carry out unpaid work but only if he wore a normal high-visibility jacket for health and safety reasons.

Ms Hall also claimed that Beales, who denies failing to work as instructed, was being discriminated against as 16 and 17-year-olds did not need to wear the jackets. Groups benefitting from unpaid work could also choose not to allow offenders to wear the vests.

The judge, adjourning the hearing until Tuesday for his judgment, said: “This particular case is highly important, not only for the defend-ant, but locally for the probation service and maybe nationally.”

About 400 convicted offenders a week wear the community payback jackets in Norfolk.

Last night, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said it had sought legal advice before introducing the community jackets and one offender had lost a legal challenge on wearing them after a judge ruled it did not breach his human rights.

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