Hate crime victims to face offenders

Greater Manchester Police are to ask antisemitic offenders to face their victims.

A restorative justice scheme piloted across GMP since November gives hate crime victims the option of meeting the perpetrators to explain the impact of racism and receive an apology. Victims can also ask a representative to meet the offender, request community service as a punishment for them, or opt for criminal proceedings.

The radical scheme is said to offer more satisfaction to victims, reduce legal costs and result in swifter action. It can be dealt with by trained police officers outside of the courts.

Bury division police inspector Mark Kenny told 60 community members and 30 non-Jews at a Prestwich police community meeting on Tuesday that his force was "pushing" to use the scheme as an effective alternative to the criminal justice system.

"I really do think that restorative justice is a very forward thinking way of dealing out a swift closure of crime."

Analysis of a similar scheme run by the Cheshire force showed a dramatic drop in reoffender rates.

But one strictly Orthodox man who had been the victim of antisemitic attacks questioned whether people would want to see the offender again. "If I was offered it I would want to knock the person out, but I wouldn't really want to meet anyone who had victimised me."

Of the 243 crimes dealt with by restorative justice across the Greater Manchester force since November, 18 were racially aggravated.

Tuesday's meeting was the first of a series aimed primarily at creating closer ties between the police and Prestwich's strictly Orthodox.

A Community Security Trust representative implored Jewish residents to report instances of verbal abuse, pointing out that offenders would otherwise "get braver - and it can finally result in actual physical attack".

One woman in the audience claimed she had been the target of anti-Christian comments from Jews.

Prestwich community officer PC Chris Grayshon revealed that police had mounted a sting operation in Prestwich to help them smash organised car crime gangs operating within Jewish neighbourhoods.

    Last updated: 10:52am, March 11 2011