The pioneering idea has dramatically reduced re-offending among children who have to apologise for crimes such as shoplifting, criminal damage and graffiti.
Youth Restorative Justice, aimed at those between 10 and 17, has been piloted in eight trial areas and proved so successful it is now set to be rolled out nationwide. It reduces the burden on the police and frees up court time.
Each year about 100,000 young people from 10 to 17 enter the criminal justice system for the first time.
In one of the trial areas alone, re-offending rates among the 1,000-plus shoplifters, vandals and yobs were significantly lower than among those who faced traditional justice such as prison, fines or community service.
Of the 1,065 wrongdoers dealt with in the first 18 months of the project in Norfolk, only 14 per cent have returned to crime after being forced to humble themselves in front of their victims.
The figure falls to eight per cent among juveniles. Across the rest of the justice system in Norfolk, the re-offending rate is about 22 per cent.
Supporters of the scheme insist it is not a soft option.
Peter Merry, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “Some offenders would rather go to prison than face their victim.”
Another trial area is Whitby, North Yorks, where Chief Inspector Nick Warnes said: “It is not a soft option but a proportionate response to minor offences. Parents are very supportive.
“Children can make mistakes. This has been very successful.”