Offenders sweep floors, clean shopping baskets and apologise to avoid criminal records

PETTY offenders are being offered the chance to avoid criminal records through a restorative justice programme backed by chief constable Simon Parr.

About 120 offenders in Cambridgeshire have already been dealt with this way in which victims of crime meet the culprits, get an apology and determine the next course of action. In one instance a 20-year old thief was made to sweep the floors at a shop after stealing �15 of goods

And a 12-year-old boy who stole goods worth �3 was ordered to clean 100 shopping baskets and write a letter of apology.

Police estimate 1,000 man-hours have been saved since February and court procedures avoided.

Mr Parr added: “Officers are being encouraged to use their professional judgment and look at all the options especially when dealing with children.

“Restorative justice provides an alternative to the traditional process of arrest and punishment.

“That said, the needs of victims remain a priority and are always considered.”

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Mr Parr gave another example of changed attitudes: the case of a 15 year old given a criminal record and placed on the sex offenders’ register for touching his girl friend’s breasts.

“The girl went home and told her mum,” said Mr Parr. “The mum decided this was out of order

“The sex offenders register is not designed for cases such as this. “Thousands of pounds were spent putting him in court.

“We have done him and the girl and her mum a disservice. That is the sort of thing I do not want us to spend our time on.

“Restorative justice offers our staff a means of dealing with that action within an hour.

“We would not spend 30-40 hours on it and we wouldn’t go around alienating families as I expect we did in this case.”