RESTORATIVE PRACTICE

Young criminals face up to consequences

He was a real teenage tearaway: stealing and taking a knife to school until he was expelled. Yet for a 16-year-old it was only once he met one of his victims and apologised that he finally saw the damage he was causing.

Even Jeremy Farris, who had his bike stolen by the teenager, was cynical that meeting the thief would ever work.

Yesterday, after 10 months without getting into trouble and on a college course, the lad stood up in front of dozens of people at a national conference at Templeton College in Kennington, Oxford, as one of the success stories of restorative justice.

Last May, after he was sentenced to an eight month referral order for stealing Mr Farris' bike, he met his victim at the Oxford Cycle Workshop in East Oxford, spending the day making him a new bicycle. The teenager - who the Oxford Mail cannot identify - said: "When you do something wrong you do feel it and you know you have done something wrong and this is the best way to redeem yourself. There will be some people that would not go along with it, but I think it would have a big impact on most people. You don't think about the victim and the fact that the guy might need a bike for riding into town. You just think it does not matter if I take it, no one is going to miss it, but actually people do."

"Restorative Justice is about young people making amends for their crimes by meeting up with the people they have harmed and doing something to repair the damage and hurt that they have caused. Peter Wallis

Mr Farris, 25, from St Ebbe's, added: "It helped me as the victim to be less cynical about the whole process of justice. "I imagine it helps the young criminal greatly because it forces him to put a face to the victim."

Between April and December last year, a total of 1,758 offences were committed by an estimated 700 offenders aged between 10 and 19 in Oxfordshire. Eighty six per cent of victims were offered the opportunity to meet the offender and of those who did, 87 per cent found it a positive move.

The county's youth offending team head Peter Wallis, who organised the conference, said: "Restorative Justice is about young people making amends for their crimes by meeting up with the people they have harmed and doing something to repair the damage and hurt that they have caused. "For a young person to meet face to face with their victim is certainly the toughest thing a young person can do - to hear how the victim has been affected and be challenged about how to put that right is hard."

By Phil Vinter
20 May 2007

http://www.oxfordmail.net/news/headlines/display.var.1270975.0.criminals_face_up_to_consequences.php

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