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Restorative justice programme for Maidstone revellers scrapped in favour of CRI awareness courses as people choose fines over Urban Blue volunteering

By Ed McConnell

A restorative justice programme for people found drunk and disorderly has been scrapped only four months after being launched.

It offered revellers the opportunity to volunteer on the Urban Blue bus rather than face prosecution.

But people have been snubbing the offer and choosing to pay a fine instead.

The Urban Blue Bus in Maidstone's Jubilee Square

Operation Cambridge, which was set up in March following a successful trial, called on those helped by the £20,000-a-year medical vehicle to return in a voluntary capacity to experience first hand the potential consequences of being inebriated.

Chief Inspector Simon Wilson said the scheme, described by participants as “eye-opening”, was about “trying to change attitudes and behaviour and reduce associated crime.”

However, Kent Police and Town Centre Management have decided a “change of direction” is in order due to the low numbers of people taking up the offer in favour of being prosecuted.

Town Centre Management and Kent Police have decided compulsory education is the answer to binge drinking in Maidstone

The new plans will see individuals treated in Maidstone having to attend a drink awareness course run by drugs and alcohol charity CRI.

Inspector Jody Gagan-Cook, who oversees the project, said: “We are meeting with a number of people who are involved in the scheme to discuss changes and to get more people who are found drunk and incapable in Maidstone to opt for education around alcohol related problems as an alternative to being prosecuted.”

The council said people should report begging to community support officers

Town Centre Management chairman Paul Alcock is due to meet Insp Gagan-Cook soon to finalise the plans.

He said: “This is a change of direction which is judged to be more productive as there is no opt out.”

Maidstone Town Centre Management's Paul Alcock

The announcement comes as a new £34,000 medical bus is on order.

The single-decker, former-airport ambulance will be delivered within the next two weeks and will take the place of the existing Urban Blue bus which failed to sell on eBay last week.

Bus manager, Rob Garner, said: “We are confident we will sell Urban Blue, we are holding off at the moment as we have interest from a charity in Canterbury looking to provide a similar service.”

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