Restorative Justice for local firebugs. | Knutsford Times

Restorative Justice for local firebugs.

By on July 5, 2013

Restorative Justice for the farmer and crown estate after their barn was set alight by 13 local children aged between 13 and 16 years old.

On Wednesday 1st May 2013, officers from Cheshire Constabulary and firefighters from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to a malicious barn fire at Sudlow Farm on Sudlow Lane in Tabley. The barn was single storey, measured approximately 20 metres by 50 metres and was filled with about 30 tonnes of hay. The fire took hold quickly and caused extensive and costly damage; firefighters battled the flames for in excess of six hours to bring the fire under control.

Two arrests were made at the scene of the fire and a group of 13 youths were subsequently identified as being responsible.

The officer in charge of the investigation, PC Macey of Knutsford Neighbourhood Policing Unit liaised with the victim throughout the investigation and with their support it was decided the best course of action was for the 13 youths to be dealt with by means of Restorative Justice.

Restorative Justice was introduced to Cheshire Constabulary in 2008 and provides a method of dealing with incidents and offenders in an effective way, addressing the needs and concerns of the victim, offender, community and acting in the public interest.  In most cases Restorative Justice involves both the victim and offender engaging with each other allowing the victim the opportunity to explain to the offender the impact the incident or offence has had on them.

Restoritive Justice provides opportunity for the root cause of criminal behviour to be established and help and support to be arranged for the offender to prevent further offences in the future and a Restoritive Justice process can include appropriate reparation to the victim by the offender.

The Restorative Justice conference in this case was arranged by PC Macey and he was assisted by PCSO Bithell and PCSO Emmerson who facilitiated the process.  The conference included the victims, all 13 youths with their parents and firefighters and officers from Knutsford Fire Station.  The youths all took part in a full and frank discussion about the incident and the consequences of their actions for all involved.

Following the completion of the formal conference all 13 youths were set to work on a gruelling reparation task to assist the victims; spending two and a half hours emptying a series of barns.  The financial loss to the victims was not met through the reparation but the effort the youths put in was appreciated by the victims who were pleased with the overall outcome of the process.

PC Macey said: “These thirteen children were collectively involved in the criminal damage caused to the barn and hay and it is important they were educated about not only the consequences of their actions for the victims but also the dangers and risk of fire and that mistakes made in their youth could have a dramatic impact on their later lives.  Restorative Justice gives us the chance to deal with young people without criminalising them and educating them by bringing them together with victims and professionals to learn from their mistakes.”

Article submitted by PC Pill Macey

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