A new scheme to deal with first time young offenders who have committed a minor offence will be piloted early next year. The scheme aims to stop them going to court unnecessarily, while at the same time ensuring that they make amends for their offence via an apology to the victim.
Restorative Justice schemes are supported by many Christians, including several Anglican bishops who have previously urged the Government to explore them more fully.
The new Youth Restorative Justice Disposal will ensure that first time offenders aged between 10 and 17 who have committed a low level minor offence have to explain their actions and apologise to their victim. The apology could be given in either oral or written form.
The aim of the disposal is to address behaviour at an early stage and to prevent re-offending. It will also help prevent escalating cases to court too quickly where a young person's future prospect's may be jeopardised.
It is hoped it will also allow police to deal with minor cases more speedily and efficiently, freeing them to deal with more serious crime.
Justice Minister David Hanson MP said; "Court is often an inappropriate option for very young people who have never committed any previous offence. Particularly if their first offence is very minor. By introducing this option for the police, bad behaviour can be nipped in the bud at the same time as the victim's feelings are addressed. It also frees up the police to deal with more serious offences."
Children's Minister Beverley Hughes MP said; "We need a much sharper focus on preventing young people at risk from ending up in trouble with the police and committing crime. Our Children's plan...sets out how we intend to ensure that every young person, including those at risk offending, are helped to fulfil their potential and go on to happy, successful lives. Restorative justice approaches are an important and powerful way to divert young people from damaging behaviour."
The Youth Restorative Justice Disposal pilot was announced as part of the Children's Plan published yesterday by DCSF. The pilots will take place from April 2008.