A SCHEME giving young first time offenders the chance to learn from their mistakes is proving to be a success just a fortnight after it was launched.

Cleveland Police’s restorative justice project enables the victims of crime to have a greater say over the punishment of youngsters caught offending.

The scheme ensures that anyone, aged between ten and 18, caught causing trouble or breaking the law will be given the chance to apologise, explain their behaviour to the victim as well as carrying out some restorative work.

Assistant Chief Constable Sean White is determined to get the message across to the public that restorative justice is not the soft option.

He said: “Everybody in the service will be able to use this course of action.

"We are not here to avoid criminalising young people, however, on some occasions for some young offenders and in some circumstances there can be another way of resolving the issue.

“There are some young offenders who we come across, even for the first time, who we feel could do with assistance from other agencies, we will still use restorative justice but we will contact the youth offending service or GPs, if there something that needs addressing.

“This is not a revolving door scheme, it is a one chance only opportunity for the young person to learn from their mistakes.

“The crimes are still recorded by the police, so if we come across them again we will know they have been through the restorative justice initiative and they then be put into the criminal justice system and will have a criminal record.”

The force has already used the initiative on a number of occasions for crimes ranging from shoplifting to anti social behaviour.

Among the reparation work carried out by the young people, who have to agree to take part as well as the victim of the crime, was one teenager who wrote a letter of apology to a shopkeeper for stealing pastries and drinks.

The 13-year-old, who wants to join the armed forces, had to carry out tasks in the store as well as provide the rank structure of the forces including the government department and current minister.

Inspector Gary Fernandez, of the community safety team in Redcar and Cleveland, said: “This has been a handy tool for us, it’s not a soft option, it’s about the young people facing up to what they have done and speaking to the victims of their crime.”