Catch up with volunteer Zac in Truro.
We caught up with volunteer Zac who is working hard at at the coalface inside Truro Magistrates’ Court. Over the last six months, he’s gained valuable face-to-face experience alongside our Cornwall team.
Why did you decide to volunteer two days a week with CASS+?
I studied for a law degree through Covid so I really needed to get proper real-life experience. I was very attracted to the CASS+ person-centred approach.
Here at CASS+, we avoid labels and we always put people first
I’ve learnt to focus on the person and not the offence. I see now that one thing can lead to another. We Are With You, Alcoholics Anonymous and AdAction are examples of successful rehabilitation programmes that we’ve been able to signpost towards. Many services are very depleted so it’s important to follow through to avoid re-offending.
What are the reasons for people attending Truro Magistrates’ Court?
People are feeling the pinch now more than ever. I see now that poverty and hardship drive a lot of crime.
I’ve seen everything from drink driving to not carrying out a community order.
I think austerity is behind most day-to-day theft. People need to survive.
Many young people have had a difficult start and it doesn’t help that youth centres have been closed. They need help before they find themselves in trouble.
Custodial sentences criminalise people further. As a result, they may be more likely to offend and less likely to find employment. Something needs to be done.
What do you think are the solutions to this situation?
It would really help if more services worked together.
On top of this, we need more investment into welfare, mental health and the Justice System.
The Criminal Justice System is severely under-funded. I see people left waiting for their case for hours and even days, with adjournments and very few duty solicitors available. They’re vulnerable and can’t articulate themselves. They really need more support. They’re only entitled to a very short time with a duty solicitor, just before they go into court. However, the outcome could have been different if they’d had more free legal advice at the right time.
It was only in August this year that The Law Society called on Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, to urgently invest £11.3 million to stop legal aid from completely vanishing at a time when millions of people are struggling with debt, housing costs and the cost-of-living crisis. The whole system is in danger of collapse and needs investment fast. Unfortunately, the Criminal Justice System isn’t really a vote-winner.
How does CASS+ solve the problem?
CASS+ can pull together all the help and resources that an individual needs to find a way through a complicated situation. The team works hard to surround someone with a secure network if they want that.
How will you take what you’ve learnt as a volunteer into the future?
I’ve learnt how to listen without judgement. As a result, people feel comfortable talking about deep issues. I’m so thankful for this new life skill.
This is such a lovely team of people. I feel valued. On top of this, there’s a real sense of team work. I now know what to expect of a good employer.
CASS+ welcomes the government review of Civil Legal Aid.
To participate in the survey and for more information visit the website. The survey closes on 17 October 2023.
Interested in joining Zac & team as a volunteer?
We’ve won the Queens’ Award for Voluntary Service. Our team will support you all the way.
Please contact email@example.com if you would like to find out about how to volunteer with CASS+ in Exeter, Newton Abbot, Plymouth, Bodmin or Truro.