RESTORATIVE Justice is effective in reducing rates of reoffending because the guilty party can start to understand ‘the impact crime has on others’, according to police.

In 2007 Cheshire became one of the first areas to introduce the approach, which brings victims face-to-face with the person responsible for the crime.

Shoplifting, minor assaults and criminal damage offences have all been dealt with by restorative justice.

And the force is now keen to see more cases settled by the process following an 18 per cent reduction in reoffending rates, which fell from 31 per cent to 13 per cent, as part of a nine-month trial.

Asst Ch Con Philip Thompson, the force’s lead on restorative justice, said: “In appropriate cases, it is not a softer option.

“It is a better option.”

He said that most people who commit crimes often do it out of selfishness and restorative justice, where the crime and its effects are ‘spelled out’ to the offender, it can deter future behaviour.

“Offenders face the consequences of their actions head-on which has a positive impact and increases their chances of reforming,” said Asst Ch Con Thompson.

“That’s why it is so effective.

“People think twice before they get the spray can out, before they mindlessly kick out the shop windows and before they punch somebody in the face.

“That’s why restorative justice is so right for certain types of offending.”

But he added that restorative justice was not a suitable settlement for all crimes.

These include cases of serious crime and serious criminal acts of dishonesty and where the offender cannot be deterred from their criminality.

He added: “What this really is all about is the act of discretion by the police officer.

“Every case that gets reported involves somebody who is affected in some way and every offender that commits an act is moved to do what they have done.

“We have to look at the circumstances in which the matter has been reported.

“We carefully select cases where we think it will bring the best results for the victim and the offender.”

BREAKOUT Officers and police in Cheshire use three different restorative justice processes to give the best outcome for the victim and change the behaviour of the offender.

• Direct restorative justice.

This involves face-to-face contact between the victim, their supporters and the offender.

Officers and staff bring people together, record the agreed decisions and make sure the offender carries them out.

• Indirect restorative justice.

This relies on a written contract between the victim and offender.

It is used when the victim does not want to be involved in a face-to-face meeting.

•Conferencing restorative justice.

The offender meets members of the community who have been affected by their behaviour.