POLICE chiefs say victims are to be given a greater say over the punishment of trouble causing youngsters.
The message comes from Cleveland Police as it launches the use of Restorative Justice across the force area, including Hartlepool.
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.
Victims will then be given a greater say over what form of reparation would be suitable and depending on the circumstances it could be things such as 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.
But chiefs have stressed it won’t be used for all crimes including serious domestic abuse, serious assaults, house burglary, offences involving weapons and high value crime.
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.
The scheme will also cut down on police paperwork compared to what is required through the court process which leaves more time for officers to be out on the beat.
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.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger, said: “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.”