This article, with a rather sensational title, "Shoplifters in Hull could be forced to apologise to victims instead of being prosecuted," discusses what sound like a great new scheme coming out of Hull, UK – the first municipality we know of to aspire to become a "restorative city." The part I quibble with is the phrase "forced to apologise." That sounds to me like something the newspaper put into the story rather than a true representation of the process being promoted.
According to the story, the scheme would give shop owners who have been victimized by shoplifters an opportunity to meet the young offenders face to face to tell them how they feel and explain to them the impact of their actions. The process would be voluntary and would not exclude the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Inspector Lee Edwards, Humberside Police lead for retail crime in Hull, said: "We don't want to force it on traders, they have to consent and co-operate.
"It may be a juvenile shoplifter who has just gone down the wrong route or given in to peer pressure.
"A small, independent trader might appreciate being able to tell that person how what they have done has made them feel and what impact it could have had on their business.
"Clearly, sometimes, there will still be cases where it will be right to bring charges and for someone to be sent to prison if necessary."
Insp Edwards said the scheme, known as restorative practice, has been used for low-level offences across the city but he wants to use it more in shoplifting cases.
He said: "The evidence suggests this has more positive outcomes for everybody, including greater victim satisfaction and reducing the likelihood of reoffending."
City centre shopkeepers have begun training in restorative practice so they know what to expect when police give them the option of a meeting the thief.
Kathryn Shillito, Hull Bid manager, said: "You might get a 15-year- old who has stolen something for £2.99 and the shop owner might want them to understand the damage shoplifting can do to their business.
"It gives victims a voice to explain what has happened to them. The most important thing is that they will still have choice and, if they still want to go down the judicial route, that's fine.
"The retailers often say they wish these kids would realise the effect of what they do could have, so this would be a chance to tell them."
I note that Chris Straker, who is pictured in the article, is one of the trainers for the program. He was former principal of Endeavor High School and was part of the original team, Hull Centre for Restorative Practice, an IIRP affiliate, that set out to make Hull the first restorative city.
Read the entire piece here.