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From Riots to Restorative Justice

August 7, 2012, 6:33 pm

REPEATEDLY throwing a paving slab against a window of a Stretford precinct store last years riots was Michaels first criminal offence.

He served two months in jail on remand before being given a community sentence at Manchester Crown Court. He was supervised by Greater Manchester Probation Trust.

Michael is one of four people convicted of riot related offences to be managed by probation officer Helen Belfield, based at the Intensive Alternative to Custody team in central Manchester.

On the evening when the conflagration gripped the two cities of Manchester and Salford, Michael had left a friends house and travelled into the city on his way home.

As the bus stopped to avoid going into the troubled areas, Michael met a group of friends who handed him a stolen bottle of Whiskey, and – after he had drunk most of the bottle – he took the fateful decision to join the rioters.

Helen said: “He fully acknowledges and accepts that he was part of the disturbances, and spending two months on remand was a pretty frightening experience for him.

“When I first met him he knew what hed done was wrong, he was remorseful, embarrassed and ashamed, but he still had some work to do to properly understand why he had acted like he had.”

As well as breaking a window – causing £1,100 of damage – Michael also stole cigarettes he spotted on the floor and, when he was later arrested after being caught on CCTV, he was found in possession of cannabis.

He took part in GMPTs Intensive Citizenship, Responsibility and Consequences programme that was developed by Natalie Rhodes, treatment manager, specifically for people convicted of rioting. Natalie met with Michael to run through four hourly sessions with him, and he also met Helen on a weekly basis, as well as carrying out 80 hours of Community Payback and complying with a 3 months curfew.

Michaels sentence included a requirement to complete a Victim Awareness programme which he did with his probation officer. He then participated in a Restorative Justice conference, whereby he met people who were affected by the riots, including a Manchester City councillor, a representative from Stretford precinct and a solicitor and local resident of the city centre.

Helen added: “The Restorative Justice conference was a perfect way for Michael to complete his order.

“He is shy and it was intimidating for him to meet important people at the town hall, but he rose to the occasion and had to answer to real victims of the riots. This showed how much responsibility he’d taken for his actions.

“Getting positive feedback from the panel meant a lot to him and has helped him move on.”

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