Dad makes sure his sons faced up to the consequences of their actions

The damage at the sensory centre's garden back in October last year
The damage at the sensory centre's garden back in October last year

In previous generations when you were a wayward child, your parents would cuff you round the ear and drag you to the door of whoever you had wronged to apologise and make amends.

Times have changed however, and restorative justice like this seems quite rare, with youngsters being dealt with by police, the courts or the Children’s Reporter.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

Four youngsters were heading that way after they had wrecked a garden at Forth Valley Sensory Centre in Camelon back in October.

The garden, which is also used by the wider community, is a lifeline for people with hearing and visual loss and other conditions – a place they can go to access various health and advice services and socialise with others in a relaxing environment.

The vandalism created shockwaves around the district when it was revealed those responsible were aged between seven and 11-years-old and they were referred to the Children’s Reporter.

The angry father of two of the boys, however, wanted his sons to face up to what they had done and approached the centre to ask if he could help teach them a lesson and prevent them from doing something similar in the future.

After liaising with local PC Arthur McInnes, it was decided restorative justice was a suitable option to deal with the situation in December.

The centre’s partnership manager Martin Allen said: “The father was really keen to make sure his sons knew the consequences of their actions and how their behaviour affected other people. The boys hadn’t been in trouble before and there was parental support so everyone felt this was the best course of action.

“Seven of our centre users met with them and we decided we would pursue restorative justice allowing those involved to meet our centre users and hear for themselves the impact the garden has on their lives, as well as those of other people in the community.

“Both had written letters explaining what they had done and apologising profusely, leaving a donation from a sale of their toys towards the cost of fixing the damage.

“Needless to say, those present felt that the process was worthwhile and both children were commended for facing up to the consequences of their actions. I think they appreciated what they had did and took everything on board.”

“It was also good to see their father being so keen to make sure that justice was done. The apology was accepted by all. Hands were shaken and hugs given out. At this time of year, there should be a spirit of forgiveness and redemption and we do now consider the matter closed.”

The centre received more good news after being awarded £12,000 from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative – raised from the 5p bag charge and voted for by local shoppers – which will be used to completely refurbish the garden.

Lynne Frail, Fundraising Coordinator at Forth Valley Sensory Centre said: “We can’t thank the people who voted for us enough. This will make a massive difference to a great public space and mean that after 10 years, the sensory garden is given a much needed makeover.”

‘Early intervention is the key to preventing crime in communities’

Scottish Justice Secretary and Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson launched a new community justice strategy late last year to prevent adults from re-offending.

It has been developed with local authorities, health boards, justice agencies, the third sector, victims groups and offenders.

The Scottish Government say the strategy will strengthen the way public services, charities and communities work together to reduce and prevent offending.

Tackling offending through early intervention, identifying the reasons why people offend in the first place, and helping people reintegrate into the community after custody, is at the heart of the new approach.

Mr Matheson said: “Our vision of an inclusive society must be supported by a progressive justice system that works with communities to both prevent and reduce offending.

“Early intervention is the key to preventing crime in Scotland’s communities and tackling social inequality is at the heart of our new approach.

“Better access to welfare, housing, health and education will all help break the cycle of crime and keep our communities safe.

“By improving our community justice system we are offering more chances for people to tackle the underlying reasons for their offending and reduce the chances of them going on to offend again.

“Through our joint efforts we will also be improving the way victims of crime and their families experience the justice system, helping them access the right services at the right time.

“This strategy, which has received widespread support, is an important step forward for community justice in Scotland. We now must all work together and tackle the key issues that contribute to offending behaviour.”