Crim­i­nals avoid court by say­ing they’re ‘sorry’

Rochdale Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

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