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New crime-fighting scheme to deal with young offenders in Dorset
CHILDREN as young as 10 are being dealt with by police in a new crime-fighting scheme.
Dorset Police says hundreds of young offenders each year are learning about the impact of their actions thanks to the Restorative Justice initiative..
In April this year the force launched its new Out of Court Disposal scheme where Youth Restorative Disposals are issued to young people aged between 10 and 17 who have committed what are deemed to be ‘low-level’ crimes.
Between April and September, 165 young people were given a Youth Restorative Disposal.
One was aged 10; three were aged 11; eight aged 12; 17 aged 13; 31 aged 14; 34 aged 15; 36 aged 16 and 35 aged 17.
The young people were dealt with for offences such as assault, criminal damage, theft and shoplifting.
A Youth Restorative Disposal was introduced to divert young people away from the criminal justice system.
The disposal involves victims, offenders, relatives and witnesses coming together to work out how to deal with what has happened and for the offender to make amends.
Each offence is looked at individually through consultation with youth offending teams and local safer neighbourhood officers.
Yvonne Surman, lead on Youth Out of Court Disposal, said: “Restorative justice was introduced to divert young people away from the criminal justice system. It has been very successful in Dorset with significant reductions in the number of children and young people entering custody and appearing before the courts. It has also produced very high satisfaction rates among victims involved in the process.
“In certain cases officers are able to offer a Youth Restorative Disposal instead of a formal caution to young people who have committed a minor offence and where the victim is supportive of the process.”
To support the partnership approach, the Safe Schools and Communities Team (SSCT) have trained 40 members of Youth Offending Team staff and volunteers. Mrs Surman said: “Utilising restorative practices to deal with low level crimes seemed a logical step. The Safe Schools and Communities Team’s ability to provide on-going support, advice and guidance to frontline and safer neighbourhood officers undertaking restorative disposals has been instrumental in its success.”
Dorset Police first used Restorative Justice in April 2008 under the Restorative Reprimand Scheme. It was launched with three main aims:
- To increase victim satisfaction in how Dorset Police dealt with crime l To reduce the number of first time entrances in the youth criminal justice system by 70 per cent over a three year period
- To reduce re-offending Between 2008 and 2011, Dorset succeeded in reducing the number of first time entrants into the youth criminal justice system by 70 per cent.
In April 2013 Dorset’s Restorative Reprimand Scheme was integrated into the new youth Out of Court Disposal scheme following the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act.
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE SCHEME
A 16-year-old girl, of previous good character, was caught shoplifting from a department store.
She was seen sneaking two items of make-up, worth £48.50, into her shopping bag before leaving the store with no intention of paying for them.
Police spoke to the retailer who agreed for the girl to be dealt with through the Restorative Justice scheme.
The girl was asked to take part in a group workshop with her mother and other young people caught committing theft offences.
During the workshop all parties involved had an opportunity to share their thoughts.
The girl heard how her actions had affected her mother, the retailer and the police.
She also learnt about theft and the law.
Afterwards, the teenager’s mother said: “I am grateful for the time spent this morning and the support provided.”
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