Officers across the Force have used the Restorative Justice approach to deal with 164 incidents since the initiative was officially launched in May 2013.
The approach gives victims a greater say over the punishment of trouble-causing youngsters who are first time offenders. It is a tool at the disposal of the police officer, Police Community Support Officer and police staff investigators who are called to deal with first time offenders under the age of 18, instead of putting the young person through the criminal justice system.
The member of Cleveland Police dealing with the crime or incident will establish what has happened and will discuss with the victim what form of reparation would be suitable. Depending on the circumstances this could be things such as removing graffiti that the offender has written or repairing damage that they have caused.
Restorative Justice allows police to use their discretion to deal with youngsters who may have acted stupidly and in the heat of the moment. It won’t be used for all crimes; those not involved include serious domestic abuse, serious assaults, house burglary, offences involving weapons and high value crime. Work is taking place alongside Middlesbrough Council and the Probation Service to use Restorative Justice for higher level offences.
One example of where Restorative Justice has been used on the ground is when PC Mark Wilkinson, neighbourhood officer for Acklam, began to investigate antisocial behaviour to Middlesbrough Golf Club. Young people were suspected of going onto the course, causing a nuisance for players and removing flags and golf balls.
Neighbourhood officers joined with Middlesbrough Council ward safety officers to carry out patrols in the area and a 12-year-old boy was caught with golf balls and flags. The boy told PC Wilkinson that he thought was just having harmless fun and it wasn’t until discussion about the consequences of his actions for the golf club that he realised.
He then wrote a letter of apology to the golf club and hand delivered it alongside a family member and accompanied by PC Wilkinson. He also verbally apologised to staff, who were in agreement with using the Restorative Justice process.
Officers across the Force have been trained in the approach and examples of good practice are also being shared internally.
Assistant Chief Constable Sean White said: “It’s pleasing to see Restorative Justice having the impact intended and not unnecessarily criminalising young people for acts of mischief or nuisance in the heat of the moment.
“While this approach is working well, it’s not a soft option and young people only get one chance to make a commitment to change their behaviour. We are sharing best practice from other parts of the country and telling our officers when one of their colleagues has used the initiative successfully.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “Restorative Justice is an excellent tool for victims, giving them a voice and allowing them to meet with the young offender first hand to explain the impact of their actions.
“I am extremely supportive of the use of this method across Cleveland and hope that the young people who have been dealt with through the approach use the positive lessons they have learned to base decisions on in the future.”
Posted on Friday 16th August 2013