Thousands avoid criminal records in Plymouth by 'making amends'
THE number of offenders avoiding criminal records by 'making amends' for their behaviour has trebled in the last five years in Plymouth.
Some of the potentially serious crimes resolved in the city through 'restorative justice' have included assault, burglary, harassment and sexual offences.
Restorative justice is a scheme that allows offenders and victims to decide how the crime should be resolved.
Examples of how amends are made include repairing damaged property, cleaning up graffiti or writing a letter of apology.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Police claim the scheme can reduce re-offending rates and save money by stopping offenders being charged and going to court.
New figures, released to The Herald under the Freedom of Information Act, show Devon and Cornwall Police used restorative justice to resolve 18,821 in the region from January 2008 to November 2012. The scheme was used 4,378 times in Plymouth during that time rising from 515 in 2009 to 1,586 in 2012.
PC Phil Skedgell, restorative justice support officer for Devon and Cornwall Police, described the scheme as a "proportional" response to low-level crime.
He said: "Restorative justice is a process which brings victims and those responsible for the crime together to communicate, thereby enabling everybody affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the damage.
"It's about communication to try to resolve conflict.
"A shopkeeper might ring in to say 'I have had a couple of kids nicking some sweets' and they just want it to be a low-level response.
"People say we sometimes use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, a disproportional response to a low-level incident.
"We often find that people are committing crimes that are naive and unintentional."
Offences range from shoplifting and criminal damage to theft of a vehicle, domestic burglary and fraud.
PC Skedgell says the offence categories might seem shocking, but the actual crimes are often less serious.
"Restorative justice is only ever used where the victim agrees and the offender accepts responsibility," he said.
"In the right environment people can gain great confidence in the police because we are taking a proportional response."
Tony Hogg, new Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall said: "I very much support the use of restorative justice. It can be applied by police at street level or more formally through the courts.
"In addition to catching criminals, it is essential that we place increased emphasis on prevention of crime and keeping people, especially young adults, out of prison where appropriate.
"Restorative justice has a high success rate in reducing re-offending.
"It is therefore valuable in keeping communities safer and also in reducing the demands on our police."
But Mr Hogg warned that serious crimes should be dealt with by serious penalties.
"There can be no soft answers for those who have committed serious offences, but for minor offences restorative justice provides an increasingly sensible route to reducing re-offending," he said.
"We must put victims first and give them an opportunity to decide how criminals who have damaged their lives are dealt with.
"But often young adults who have committed minor offences are or have been victims themselves, and many who are looking for a way out of a life of crime need support from their community. There is a balance to be set."
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE: THE FACTS
Restorative justice was used to resolve 18,821 crimes in Devon and Cornwall from 2008 to 2012
Fact panel: It was used 7,227 times between January and November this year - up from 2,422 in 2009
Fact panel: In Plymouth the scheme was used 4,378 times in the last five years
Fact panel: 2009: 515
Fact panel: 2010: 1,118
Fact panel: 2011: 1,159
Fact panel: 2012 (to November): 1,586
Fact panel: The crime the scheme was used for the most in Devon and Cornwall was shoplifting - 4,311 times since 2008
STATISTICS: OFFENCES RESOLVED
Offences in Plymouth resolved through restorative justice between 2009-12:
Criminal damage: 881
Common assault: 683
Other assault: 663
Other theft: 298
Fraud and forgery: 147
Other crime: 127
Sexual offences: 48
Other burglary: 26
Drug offences: 18
Theft of vehicle/TWOC: 17
Theft from vehicle: 17
Domestic burglary: 16
Other violence: 14
Serious assault: 7
Vehicle interference: 1