Teenage offenders to repay victims out of pocket money

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The Independent Online
JACK STRAW, the Home Secretary, is to make offenders as young as 10 pay back their victims out of their pocket money. He also plans to encourage parents to use punch bags to vent their anger over the behaviour of their children who break the law.

These controversial measures are part of a pounds 35m scheme to be launched by the Government to tackle youth crime and introduce a "paying your dues" culture.

The fight against teenage offenders is being spearheaded by the Youth Justice Board, which will employ 155 teams of workers across the country to implement the Government's proposals. Lord Warner, chairman of the board, says the aim is to humiliate young offenders into realising the effect of their crimes at an early stage and to prevent them reoffending.

Offenders committing "low level crimes" such as breaking into cars or shoplifting will not immediately be arrested and charged. Instead, they will be made to confront their victim and admit their crime in the company of their parents, police and a trained mentor employed by the Youth Justice Board.

They will then be shamed into paying to repair the damage they have caused, whether physical, such as a broken car window, or emotional.

The scheme has already been trialled by Thames Valley Police in an attempt to change the behaviour of children who offend. The Home Office is still evaluating the Thames Valley project but current statistics show that only 20 per cent of teenagers reoffend compared with 60 per cent who go through the courts.

Under these new proposals, parents who are struggling with their children's behaviour will also be sent back to the classroom to learn how to cope. Those who show aggressive behaviour towards their children will instead be told to invest in punch bags, for example, as a way of expressing their anger.

Courts will also be given powers to monitor teenagers who come before them on drugs charges. Children who stay off drugs will be given a certificate of achievement.

"In the past nothing was done to confront children over their actions and in some ways it's easier for children to go into court and not have to confront their victims," said Lord Warner.

"This way they realise who they have hurt and are made to pay for this. Also, children who offend have to go back to families where there may be problems so we have to change the behaviour of parents as well."

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