Norfolk judge’s praise for offender project to breathe new life into railway line between Wymondham, Dereham and Fakenham

A senior judge has praised the contribution made by offenders towards a scheme to try and clear a derelict stretch of Norfolk railway line which is hoped might one day become operational again.

The Mid-Norfolk Railway (MNR) comprises of an operational 11-mile section, between Dereham and Wymondham, although the long-term aim is for the line to reach as far as Fakenham.

Enthusiasts have been trying to realise this goal by working on clearing the disused northern section from Dereham as far as County School which has not been used for more than 20 years.

The success of the project owes much to the contribution made by offenders ordered to do unpaid work as part of their punishment under the Community Payback initiative.

Yesterday about 10 offenders helped to clear a section of the track at North Elmham, near Dereham, where they were watched by Judge Peter Jacobs.

He said: 'I was very impressed with the attitude and contribution of people I saw and talked to. Some of them haven't been able to secure employment for many years and many I spoke to were proud and felt they were getting the chance to make a real contribution and hope they can demonstrate to people they're worthy of full-time employment.'

Judge Jacobs said the Norfolk and Suffolk Probation Trust (NSPT) 'deserve a lot of credit' for the scheme and would have no hesitation in sentencing more offenders to Community Payback.

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He said: 'For people who have committed low level offences its far better to put them on these schemes than to put them in prison or make them pay fines which they can't pay. They're giving something back into the community and are giving themselves the benefit of working.'

Julia Sharp from NSPT said: 'Community Payback is a real asset to the local communities we serve. Offenders give something back for the crimes they have committed but they also learn new skills which they can use in future employment.'

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