By STEVE DOWNES
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Four humbled teenagers have written a letter of apology to the people of Sheringham after a “stupid” incident that saw them spray graffiti at a popular play area.
The youngsters have also cleaned up their handiwork, picked up litter at the park - and are doing fundraising for a local charity which was among the victims.
The action - including the letter - came after the four and their parents came face-to-face with those on the wrong end of their vandalism.
They ran the risk of getting a criminal record for the attack, which happened over the Christmas holidays.
But representatives from the Benjamin Foundation and North Norfolk District Council, both of whose facilities were vandalised, were keen to avoid the sanction.
Instead, with the help of local police, they opted for a restorative justice approach: a solution that sees perpetrators of crime meet their victims and come up with a way to make amends.
And, according to PC Ian Smith, who brokered the solution, the youths were keen to make up for their misdemeanour.
He said three male youngsters were interviewed about the damage, while a teenaged girl was also involved.
He said: “The organisations that were harmed did not want the youngsters to get a criminal record. Because they’re trying to support youngsters in the work that they do, they do not want to criminalise anybody.
“We had an initial meeting with the Benjamin Foundation and NNDC, then we had a meeting between the youngsters, their parents and the two organisations. We talked through what had happened and what could be done.
“At these meetings, we try to get them to think about what they’ve done.”
During the attack, graffiti was sprayed on a mobile building used by the Benjamin Foundation, along with a shelter at the site.
PC Smith said: “They offered to clean up the graffiti and wanted to formally apologise in a letter. One of the youngsters and his parents also wanted to write a letter to the town, to apologise to the whole community.
“The Benjamin Foundation said there was a cost to put it right and wondered if they would be involved in some fundraising, which they are taking on.”
He added: “They have done a fantastic job of cleaning up the graffiti that they were involved in, but have also cleaned up other graffiti.
“They’ve turned up in the freezing cold and have done very well.
“They’ve done litter picks in the park and washed down the play equipment. Now they’re focusing on fundraising to get the mobile building spruced up.”
PC Smith said restorative justice could have a “positive effect” on both the victims and wrongdoers, enabling one to see that something was being done and the other to understand the impact of the crime.