Last Fridays episode of 999: What’s Your Emergency? focused on pathways to crime – how incidents that can initially seem very minor may sometimes lead to criminality further down the line.
In one segment, officers PC Tabitha Rumney and PC Pete Ellard were called to a block of flats in Rotherham. On arrival, it was clear a property had been broken into and damaged. Several of those in the group responsible managed to flee the scene, but one teenager was detained on suspicion of burglary and taken to custody.
As a first-time offender, the young man was clearly unaware of the implications of being part of the group which broke into the flats. Reluctant to contact his parents, he was very distressed as the implications of his actions sunk in.
PC Ellard explains: “You can definitely tell if someone has been in trouble with the police before, and looking at this lad it was probably the first time he’d seen a police officer let alone be faced by one in the situation he was in. He actually told us that he’d never even had a detention at school. He was clearly petrified.
“This 17-year-old had no previous offences; no criminal record and it was clear that he regretted his actions. Restorative Justice was a positive option for both offender and victim.”
Restorative Justice (RJ) is used in appropriate circumstances to offer victims of crime an opportunity to communicate, whether directly or indirectly, with the perpetrator of the offence.
The process is entirely voluntary and victim-led, and if a victim does decide to meet with the perpetrator, this is done in a safe environment with a trained RJ practitioner.
This can be a face-to-face meeting, a conversation via telephone or video call, or the exchange of letters. RJ can also sometimes include the offender making some kind of reparation for their crime, such as repairing or paying for damage.
In South Yorkshire, we have a dedicated service for the delivery of RJ called Restorative South Yorkshire, which is run by the charity Remedi.
PC Ellard adds: “Some may see Restorative Justice as an easy way out – this is far from the case. There are huge benefits. Victims don’t have to through the stress of giving a statement and possibly appearing at court, and they also often have a greater sense of control as there is communication between them and the offender. They can find out the possible reasons behind the crime and have the option to meet face-to-face or receive a letter.
“For first time offenders, particularly those in a similar position to the boy we saw in tonight’s episode, the benefit is that they think about what they’ve done and the impact it’s caused. It’s really quite powerful.”
For more information, visit the Restorative South Yorkshire website here