Partial victory in 'Payback' protest

A convicted man who would not wear a “Community Payback” vest to do unpaid work won only a partial victory yesterday when a district judge ruled in his favour.

A convicted man who would not wear a “Community Payback” vest to do unpaid work won only a partial victory yesterday when a district judge ruled in his favour.

Kane Beales, who has convictions for carrying a flick-knife and knuckle-duster, was told by district judge Philip Browning that he had acted reasonably in not donning the high-visibility jacket in February.

But, straight after Beales's successful appearance at Yarmouth Magistrates' Court, he was told by Norfolk Probation Service that he would have to wear one of the orange jackets in future.

Beales, 19, of Finisterre Rise, Caister, had objected to wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words Community Payback on February 18 on the grounds it would leave him feeling humiliated and embarrassed.

Judge Browning ruled that he had not breached his probation order by refusing to don the jacket as he had been sentenced before they were introduced and had not been told he had to wear one before going to a probation office at Yarmouth on February 18.

However, the judge said it was now up to the county probation service to make Beales wear a vest and that he would not be surprised if further challenges to wearing the jackets were made.

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Judge Browning said: “The requirement to wear a high-visibility vest with the Community Payback logo and writing may be challenged as being unreasonable. I do not feel it necessary in the context of this case to decide that issue.

“I consider that such a decision will require more detailed argument and consideration than has been possible in this case. Those arguments may include matters of human rights; I am sure that will arise somewhere and sometime.”

It is the second time the Ministry of Justice's new initiative to show that offenders are being punished for their crimes has been challenged in court.

Beales had told a previous court hearing that he did not want to be subjected to humiliation or embarr-assment as the vest “advertises that you have done something wrong, and you don't want the whole world to know”. He was prepared to wear a normal high-visibility jacket while he cleared undergrowth at a church, and he had completed half of his 220 unpaid hours by attending Learndirect activities.

Beales's solicitor, Annette Hall, described Judge Browning's not-guilty ruling as a victory and important decision.

Norfolk Probation Service said Beales had now been told he had to wear a jacket and it would enforce the provisions of a 2008 “distinctive clothing for offenders undertaking community payback” government circular if he refused to do so.

About 400 offenders a week in Norfolk have worn the jackets since they were introduced at the beginning of the year.

The ministry said it was confident that its new scheme to let the pubic see that justice was being done would be a success. A spokeswoman said: “We have sought legal advice on the jackets' introduction and put in place all the necessary precautions. In a recent case, an offender challenged being made to wear one and a judge ruled that was was not a breach of his human rights.”

Yesterday, Beales was found guilty of failing to attend for unpaid work on February 11.

Judge Browning added a month's suspension to his 12-week prison sentence, suspended for a year, imposed last September for having two offensive weapons.