RETAIL bosses say they are “fully behind” plans by police chiefs to give victims a greater say over the punishment of trouble causing youngsters.
Mark Rycraft, centre manager at Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, has thrown his weight behind Cleveland Police’s move to use Restorative Justice across the force area, including Hartlepool.
When police 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. Mr Rycraft believes the plans will be well received by retailers, who are often the target for theft or anti-social behaviour.
Restorative Justice means those responsible may be given the opportunity to right their wrong and be subject to a restorative intervention, which means apologising and giving a commitment to change their behaviour.
Victims will then be given a greater say over what form of reparation would be suitable and depending on the circumstances it could involve removing graffiti or repairing damage.
Officers hope the 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.
Mr Rycraft said: “My preference is to catch the problem early on and help the person who has committed the crime to understand the long-term impact of their actions and change behaviours.
“I fully support the initiative at every level and have previously been a surrogate victim acting on behalf of retailers and meeting with the young people responsible to talk to them about the impact of their crime.”
Mr Rycraft said he has been involved in similar schemes in Hartlepool and Bolton, where he was a shopping centre manager.
Police stress it won’t be used for more serious crimes and if the agreed reparation is not carried out then officers still have the option of the criminal justice system.
Assistant Chief Constable Sean White said: “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.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “We have to be able to empower victims and reduce reoffending by ensuring that the actions of first offenders are nipped in the bud.”