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Young criminals to be brought face to face with their victims

PARENTS and pupils could be asked to make their peace with young people who have offended against them or their property under new proposals published by the Scottish Executive this week.

An action programme to reduce youth crime, launched by the First Minister and the Education Minister in Musselburgh on Monday, sets out an agenda for multi-agency youth justice teams to adopt "restorative justice or victim remediation" measures.

The process, pioneered in Australia and New Zealand, makes the offender confront the consequences of their actions and offer a form of reparation acceptable to the victim.

But Judith Gillespie, development manager with the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, warned: "It should be the judge or the children's panel reporter who decides on what reparation, if any, should be made. If it's the victims, they may be out for blood."

Victims could also be at risk of further victimisation, Elizabeth Sykes, information manager of Children in Scotland, said. "We would expect each case to be looked at individually to ensure this did not happen."

Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister, said police and young people felt approaches which include reparation and mediation are effective.

Alan Millar, chief executive of the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration and a member of the Youth Steering Justice Group, said: "It helps scale down the anxiety for victims who come to realise they have not been specially picked out but are rather the victims of haphazard actions - and that the criminal is not some hulking mastermind but a spotty faced 13-year-old who is now beginning to realise that what he has done is pretty hurtful."

Youth justice teams have been set up in every local authority. Their aim is to co-ordinate the efforts of schools, parents and police.

Leader, page 20

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