Young criminals face up to
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
By Phil Vinter
20 May 2007