A PRIEST has met the young culprits who daubed paint on his church doors as part of a crime payback programme.
Father Frank McCullagh, of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, in Westway, Peterlee, praised the East Durham town’s police for tracking down those responsible for the graffiti.
The four youths will take part in litter-picking around the area to learn the error of their ways, rather than going down the youth court route in the scheme, which is aimed at empowering victims.
Fr McCullagh, who has also met the youngsters’ parents, said he is glad the youths have learned their lesson.
He added: “I didn’t think there was any chance of the real culprits being apprehended.
“But somewhat to my surprise we have been very fortunate and they have tracked them down and I can only praise the police for everything they’ve done.”
Sadly, Fr McCullagh said what had happened was “just typical of society” and added: “Youths have no respect for people.”
He said the church had regularly suffered from litter, noise and graffiti and damage to the building.
Restorative justice gives victims the chance to meet offenders and tell them about the impact of their crime and get answers to their questions.
It also holds offenders to account for what they have done, helps them understand the real impact of what they’ve done, to take responsibility and make amends.
Fr McCullagh said: “I think it’s a good a idea.
“While very time consuming it’s still a very valuable process.
“The children had a meeting with myself and their parents. They were very remorseful and had learned their lesson.
“The parents were very supportive of the principle of honesty and in no way tried to protect their children. If the children go to court they get a criminal record, but this way they don’t.”
Pc Katie Davies, of Peterlee Police, said: “Members of the community, users of the church and Father McCullagh himself were affected by the graffiti.
“But it has been resolved and the people involved will be putting something back into the community for their actions.
“The major benefit of restorative justice is that the victim is involved in the outcome and it gives them control, whereas in the criminal justice system the victim doesn’t get involved until the case gets to court.”