On The Beat with Inspector Jim Tyner
I was on foot patrol in Spalding town centre and came across a 14-year old girl using a red marker pen to scrawl graffiti on the front of the South Holland Centre. She was literally caught red-handed.
After taking her home and giving the girl a severe talking-to in front of her mother, I then spoke to staff at the South Holland Centre.
They didn’t want to make a formal complaint and so, the following day, after school, I met the girl at the South Holland Centre. She gave a sincere apology to the centre manager and was then provided with cleaning materials and a bucket to clean all the graffiti off the wall.
All her friends, who had thought she was so cool the day before, were watching and the girl was suitably embarrassed
The staff at the South Holland Centre were happy that the person who had caused the graffiti had acknowledged their wrong-doing and made amends.
The teenage girl was able to reflect on the impact of her actions and put the matter right. She was made very aware of the consequences of any future wrong-doing.
But this wasn’t last week. It was March 1994. Nowadays we would call this restorative justice – back then it was simply common-sense policing.
Whatever we call it, the principle is the same. Holding offenders to account for what they have done helps them understand the real impactof what they’ve done and to take responsibility and to make amends.
Had we criminalised that teenage girl it could have had an impact on her career prospects.
Nowadays, we have fewer officers in South Holland than back in March 1994. So it’s important that we use every opportunity to free up officer time.
One way of doing this is through effective use of restorative justice.
Let me be clear: my officers use their professional judgement every day.
If someone needs to be arrested, then they are arrested: that hasn’t changed. However there are occasions when there is an alternative to arrest, like in the example above, and that’s where restorative justice can help.
Just like at the South Holland Centre in 1994, restorative justice offers clear benefits to both victim and offender and gives my officers flexibility to deal with a variety of offences effectively.
Guidelines are in place to help us decide where the use of restorative resolutions might be appropriate, but in every case it is my aim that this decision will be victim-led and above all reflect their views and wishes.
In this case, one poor choice as a teenager was dealt with to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.
That teenage girl will now be 34-years-old. She may now have children of her own.
I hope that the lessons learnt back in March 1994 have stuck with her.