PC Martin Hudd: An ideal job for restorative justice
'And so I suppose he will just get away with it?'
This was the accusation levelled at me last week when I attended an address in relation to a nuisance incident whereby a 13-year-old lad had kicked his football into a neighbouring garden causing it to damage a piece of panel fencing.
This wasn't the first time the ball had gone into neighbouring properties and the lad had been spoken to on previous occasions by residents about this type of behaviour and so on this occasion the complainant had decided to contact their local neighbourhood policing team in an attempt to sort out the problem.
On arrival at the address it was clear that the complainants had come to the end of their tether and required a solution. I allowed them to vent their frustrations and once this had been done it soon became clear that the complainants didn't think the lad was "a bad un" and certainly didn't want to see him carted off down to the police station or put into stocks, they just wanted a little bit of redress and to make the lad realise the implications of his actions.
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"Sounds like an ideal job for RJ," I said giving it my best Sherlock Holmes impression.
However, it was clear from the expression on the faces of the complainants that they had no idea what I was talking about, and probably thought that RJ was an abbreviation for some form of super cop or secret crime prevention weapon, and so I sat down and explained the restorative justice model to them.
RJ can be used when an incident has occurred but no crime has been committed or when a less serious crime has been committed. We use it for incidents of anti-social behaviour as part of a longer term solution and sometimes even in conjunction with a criminal prosecution.
It can also be used to avoid the unnecessary clogging up of the criminal justice system but it must be stressed that it is not an additional criminal justice method, but an alternative one and that there are clearly cases when this type of solution cannot and will not be used, certainly at the more serious end of the criminal offences scale.
I explained to them the process used to implement this type of solution and that at an agreed date, time and location I would ask the young lad, in company with his parents to attend a meeting with me and the complainants so all parties could discuss the incident and its implications, thus making the young lad accountable and responsible for his actions, whilst also allowing the complainants to voice their concerns in a controlled manner and environment. At the end of it I would hope that all parties concerned would then look to put the incident behind them, maybe offer some reparation in relation to the damage caused or even just say sorry and have a better understanding of each others' needs.
It's a clear fact that giving children a criminal record at such a young age doesn't always serve a purpose and can in fact have a detrimental effect on their future behaviour.
No one wants to see a young talented individual tainted for years to come by an act of foolishness and it is with this in mind that restorative justice has been implemented.
It gives them a chance to say sorry, to mend their ways before it becomes too late and to finally realise that every action has a consequence.