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'Sorry' is not enough for victims of crime in Sussex
Victims of crime say offenders do not mean it when Sussex Police make them say sorry instead of going to court.
People who have agreed to take part in “community resolution” have complained that letters of apology from offenders do not seem sincere.
But the force has backed its use of the scheme, which has been used 2,000 times in the last six months.
Community resolution is Sussex Police’s version of restorative justice, which is being used across the country in 12% of all cases.
It allows officers to broker an agreement between a victim and an offender to make up for what has happened – for example, by paying back money lost or writing a letter of apology.
Police use the scheme as a way to improve the satisfaction of victims and to avoid criminalising first-time offenders with a caution or charge, reducing the chances of them reoffending while saving officers time.
The inspectorates of constabulary, probation, prisons and prosecutions issued a joint report on the scheme this week saying its use was inconsistent around the country.
The reception given to the scheme was mixed among the public and police.
At a focus group in Sussex, one participant described the scheme as “lily-livered liberalism” although praised the idea of allowing police officers to reach common-sense solutions on the spot.
Of 630 police officers and police community support officers surveyed nationally, 39% thought charging offenders was more effective in stopping them offending again.
The Ministry of Justice said it wants to expand the scheme and Sussex Police is currently reviewing the effect of community resolution on reoffending, victim satisfaction and officer time.
The force said more than 90% of victims surveyed so far have been satisfied.
On Monday alone it was used in 18 cases. Ninety-three people were charged with crimes.
The force said crimes like domestic violence were excluded and each case was examined to see if community resolution is appropriate.
The force said in a statement: “Community resolution gives the victim the chance to tell offenders about the real impact of their crime, to get answers to questions and to receive an apology.
“It gives the offenders the chance to understand the real consequences of what they’ve done and to do something to repair the harm.”
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