BRINGING criminals face to face with their victims has proved a useful exercise in Cheshire.
A year ago police launched a pilot scheme in a dozen crime-plagued areas of the county which they reckoned would benefit from showing offenders the effects of their actions.
One of the trial areas was Ellesmere Port’s Rossmore ward.
Moira Chapman, lead member for community engagement, told a Cheshire Police Authority meeting: “The initial results of victims and offenders coming face to face are good.
“Restorative justice provides an opportunity for the victim, the offender, their families and representatives of the community to be directly involved in responding to the harm caused by a crime or incident.
“This brings communities together, gives people power and, evidence suggests, reduces the chance that the offender will re-offend.”
A restorative justice “conference” brings victims and offenders together, with a trained mediator to agree a solution.
They may agree an apology will suffice or that the offender works in the community as payback doing things such as graffiti removal, repair of damage or returning stolen property.
This is a voluntary process which both parties must agree to.
A report presented to the authority showed the progress of 56 offenders who have taken part in restorative justice.
Eighty-two per cent of them said they felt they understood the effect their behaviour had on the victim and that they were less likely to offend again.
The same percentage agreed that their perception of the police had also improved through the restorative approach.
Fifty-four per cent of the victims who took part said that, before restorative justice, they felt traumatised by the incident and only 45% felt safe in their local community.
Following the conference, 73% felt able to put the incident behind them and those that felt safe in their local community rose to 73%.
The restorative justice approach was better than traditional methods, said 78% of victims, while 91% felt they would recommend it to a friend and all were happy with the outcomes of the conference and what the offender was asked to do.
Seventy-two per cent felt their perception of the police had improved following their participation in the restorative process.
The scheme was trialled in Rossmore ward because it suffers from high levels of anti-social behaviour, criminal damage and violent crime.