The best deterrent of all: facing up to your victims

After knocking back a bottle of Martini, Wayne and Robin (not their real names) went out on a spree, breaking into two cars.

One of the cars belonged to a Mr Judge and the items Robin and Wayne stole had been presents from his wife, just months before she died.

In an experiment which has proved to be remarkably successful, the teenagers were brought face-to-face with Mr Judge. Trembling with emotion, he yelled at them: "On our final anniversary she gave me some presents for my car. I treasured the travel rug, sunglasses, camera and book that she gave me. And the morning after your stupid, ignorant behaviour I found those presents thrown into the hedge like rubbish." The pair, who had already been cautioned by the police, ended the meeting with their victim by apologising and paying pounds 100 compensation.

Wayne and Robin were just two of nearly 400 young offenders who have taken part in a pilot scheme where victims and offenders are brought together. The scheme has produced startling figures which suggest that young people who take part are much less likely to commit another crime.

In fact, the Restorative Justice scheme run by Thames Valley Police in Buckinghamshire claims that recidivism was reduced to an eighth of its previous level - down from around 30 per cent to 4 per cent.

Social service leaders, probation officers and penal reformers last night called for such schemes to be more widely implemented. "We would like to see the restorative justice approach extended throughout the country and the criminal justice process," said Paul Cavadino, principal officer of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders.

The results reflect findings around the world where similar schemes have also had remarkable success. Fewer young people committing serial crimes are being locked up and victims report feeling their views have been taken into account as well. It could mean an end to celebrated cases such as the serial offender known as Ratboy - Anthony Kennedy, 17, from Newcastle, who was jailed earlier this year after a six- year criminal career.

A 1996 study in Canada found an 80 per cent reduction in further criminal behaviour by those attending a similar scheme. In New Zealand, after a law was brought in in 1989 which made young offenders and their families meet their victims, court cases involving young people dropped from between 10,000 to 13,000 cases a year to 2,587 the year after. Entry to correctional institutions also dropped by 50 per cent.

The largest study of more than 3,000 young offenders in four American cities in 1994 found that reoffending dropped from 27 to 18 per cent and "considerably fewer and less serious crimes were committed".

Thames Valley Police has conducted 367 conferences involving young offenders aged between 10 and 17 since the scheme was set up two years ago. Only youngsters facing cautions for offences can take part and they are accompanied by their parents.

Victims have included shop managers, motorists and a woman who was assaulted in the street. They must agree to take part in the conferences, which last up to 40 minutes. They can take a friend for moral support.

The Chief Constable of Thames Valley, Charles Pollard, said 60 officers have been trained to run the scheme. "I see this as a permanent thing, without a doubt. I personally would like to see it replicated. We expect the results to show an even greater reduction in reoffending in about two to three years."

Constable Bob Gregory, who is helping to co-ordinate the face-to-face sessions, said: "I was Mr Sceptical. I thought it would never work in a month of Sundays. I was won over by observing them. It is not a soft option. We think going to court is hard, but court is only measuring blame and apportioning punishment. This is punishing. Young offenders have to listen to the effect they have had on the victim and that's hard, that's very, very difficult."

Professor Tim Newburn, head of crime justice and youth studies at the Policy Studies Institute, said: "This general approach has a lot of potential and it's certainly important for agencies to explore as it remains relatively untested."

He called for education and health services to also get involved in the treatment of young offenders: "Their offending is not usually the only problem they have."

A handful of schemes are run across the country by a mixture of social services, voluntary agencies teams and the police. Andy James, who runs a Barnardo's project in Neath and Port Talbot area, said 80 per cent of the 100 children they saw a year did not re offend. "And the victim also gets a chance to confront their offender and come to terms with what has happened to them."

The Association of Directors of Social Services also called for more work to be done on the scheme.

Harry Fletcher, assistant secretary general of the National Association of Probation Officers said: "There is now clear evidence that direct mediation is helpful - it is therapeutic for the victim and has a positive impact on reoffending."

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Teacher

£22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution