Criminals avoid court by saying they’re ‘sorry’
THOUSANDS of criminals have avoided prosecution in Greater Manchester by saying ‘sorry’ to their victims.
Sex offenders, arsonists, harassers and people who have threatened to kill are among those who have been allowed to apologise rather than being hauled before the courts.
Our sister paper the M.E.N. has learned almost 3,500 incidents of violent crime were dealt with by means of ‘community resolution’ and restorative justice last year.
Greater Manchester Police say the methods ‘empower’ victims who do not want formal action – and prevent re-offending.
But Blackley and Broughton MP Graham Stringer has criticised the approach.
The M.E.N. has learned that of the 3,483 violent crimes dealt with this way in 2016/17, 38 were sexual assaults, 24 were cases of arson, 53 involved threats to kill and 529 were of harassment.
The majority of the cases involved assault without injury (1,172) and criminal damage (1,300). A number of sexual offences involved children sharing inappropriate images.
Police said in these circumstances, the approach provides the chance to educate young people, prevents unnecessary criminalisation and provides an opportunity for people to apologise for their actions and understand the damage they caused.
A community resolution can involve an apology or a ‘reparation,’ such as paying for any criminal damage.
The violent offences dealt with in this way represented 5.2 per cent of the 67,039 violent crimes recorded by Greater Manchester Police for the year - one of the highest shares of any force in England and Wales.
Like many other forces, GMP reduced its use of community resolutions last year.
Overall in 2016/17 the force used them 8,579 times, compared to 9,631 the year before.
Head of profession and neighbourhoods for GMP, Claire Light, said: “Community resolutions are an effective method of dealing with certain offences because they will often have a restorative feature that can be hugely beneficial to the victim in terms of coping and recovery. It can also help the offender to take responsibility for their actions and repair the harm to the victim.
“Community resolutions are an empowering process for the victim as often they don’t want formal action to be taken but want to know that they have been heard and that action has been taken in relation to the crime. They are mainly used with first time offenders where it is a more appropriate and proportionate alternative to court proceedings.
“While not often used for sexual offences, there are occasions when a carefully managed restorative intervention is appropriate because it provides the victim with the outcomes they need to recover and helps to prevent future offending.”
MP Graham Stringer said: “I think for serious crime, like arson and sexual assault, if there is a case to be answered it should be answered in court. If these people have been a risk to the public once, they may be a risk to the public a second time round and that’s to be determined by a court rather than by a cosy agreement with the police where undue pressure can be put on these victims.”