Manchester police chief defends 10,000 apologies and community resolutions dished out instead of prison sentences

By Mancunian Matters staff

Restorative justice and helping the offender to fit back into society often has more impact than prison sentences, according to a Greater Manchester police chief.

The claim comes as figures today revealed more than 10,000 people who committed a serious violent crime last year were let off without a formal conviction.

Restorative justice uses ‘community resolutions’, including apologies, offers of compensation and face-to-face time between the offender and victim, instead of prison sentences to tackle crime.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) advises that community resolutions like this should only be used for less serious offences, such as anti-social behaviour or minor assaults without injury.

However last year, 10,160 were dished out for serious violent crimes, which includes grievous bodily harm, malicious wounding and use of an object to endanger life. It also includes 2,488 for domestic violence.

The figure is a stark increase from the 792 community resolutions handed out in 2008.

Greater Manchester assistant chief constable Garry Shewan, speaking for ACPO, pointed out that the guidelines were only in place to help forces decide where the use of community resolutions may be appropriate, but ultimately the decision was victim led.

“Community resolutions, including restorative justice, offer clear benefits to both victim and offender, and give police flexibility to deal with a variety of offences effectively,” he told PA.

“Many victims of crime tell us that they feel the criminal justice system and courts take over and they are left out, but meeting the offender can bring a degree of closure and help them to move on with their lives.

“Going through a restorative justice meeting has also been proven to have more impact on an offender than a prison sentence or a court punishment alone, as they see the consequences of their actions and so want to make changes in their future behaviour.”

ACC Shewan also said that forces take into account the unique circumstances of every case and the existing relationship between the offender and the victim to ensure the best possible outcome.

“We are clear that these cases should be judged upon their outcomes, not only for the victim, but the offender and wider community,” he said.

However Labour leader Ed Miliband today condemned the figures when speaking on ITV’s Daybreak and hinted that a lack of police on the streets may be behind the switch to community resolutions.

“We have got evidence that more than 10,000 violent offenders are getting off without a caution but with so-called ‘community resolutions’,” he said.

“I am in favour of community resolution for graffiti on a wall, or anti-social behaviour. I am not in favour of it for violent offences. I think that really needs to be looked at.”

He added: “If it is the fact that there are fewer police and therefore these violent offenders are getting away without even a caution, I think that is something we should be really worried about.”

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