Police say they are not being soft on crime, stressing that victims have to agree to the punishments and that the option is not offered to those who show no remorse for their actions.

Devon and Cornwall Police estimate that just 3 per cent of those dealt with so far through so-called restorative justice have gone on to re-offend.

PC Phil  Skedgell, Devon and Cornwall Police’s restorative justice support officer, said: “It is not avoiding people having a criminal record, it is about doing what is right for the victims and the offenders.”

He said victims were “involved in the process” and that they had a “clear voice” because they decided on suitable reparation or punishment.

Devon and Cornwall Police are mirroring a national pilot launched by the Department for Schools, Children and Families. Known as Youth Restorative Disposal, the idea is to avoid jeopardising a young person’s future prospects and free officers to deal with more serious crime.

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