PCC speaks at the Restorative Justice Launch
Victims will be given a greater say over the punishment of trouble causing youngsters as Cleveland Police launches the use of Restorative Justice across the Force.
When police officers, Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), or police staff investigators are called to deal with first time offenders under the age of 18, they will consider using a Restorative Justice approach instead of putting the young person through the criminal justice system.
It means that they may be given the opportunity to right their wrong and be subject to a Restorative Intervention – which means an initial apology, the opportunity to explain their behaviour to the victim and to give a commitment to change their behaviour.
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.
It is hoped that this new tool will allow 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.
Police in Cleveland believe there will be a rise in the use of Restorative Justice in the summer months when incidents of low level antisocial behaviour typically increase. The use of this tool will not impact on recorded crime statistics, records of interventions will be kept, and the project will be led using national guidelines.
Officers have begun to use Restorative Justice approaches across Cleveland since it was implemented at the beginning of this month and will be considering its use further when dealing with incidents. Force champions have been nominated to support the process and training packages have been given to staff.
Key to a successful Restorative Intervention is positive communication between those that have been harmed and those responsible. It should be sustainable and most importantly the victim should be satisfied by the process. If the agreed reparation is not carried out then officers will still have the option of dealing with the offender through the Criminal Justice System.
When the new tool is used by an officer, the paperwork needed is reduced considerably compared to what is required through the court process. This saves time meaning the officer is back out on the beat more quickly.
Assistant Chief Constable Sean White said: “I want to be clear that this is not a soft option. Restorative Justice is an excellent tool that opens communication between the victim and perpetrator in order to repair the harm caused and find a positive way forward.
“Often officers would be called to incidents where young people have acted stupidly or out of character, but they would have no other option than to deal with them through the Criminal Justice System. Restorative Justice supports the need to change, be flexible, and empowers victims to face the offender and get answers to their questions if they wish.
“Some say it is going back to old fashioned policing, when officers were able to make more use of their own discretion when needed, rather than having to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It holds offenders to account for what they have done, personally and directly, and supports victims to continue with their lives.
“We will be working closely with partner agencies and retain the option of referring young people to outside support services if it is identified that an underlying issue was at the root cause of the offence.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “I am fully supportive of the Restorative Justice approach, which falls in line with a number of objectives set by people from local communities through the Police and Crime Plan.
“Some victims want the opportunity to face the young person to tell them the real impact of their crime and ask why it happened. They want an apology and to see them personally remove the graffiti they sprayed or fix the fence that they broke, rather than have them taken away by police officers and put through the courts. We have to be able to empower victims and reduce reoffending by ensuring that the actions of first offenders are nipped in the bud.”
Posted on Friday 26th April 2013