RESTORATIVE justice saves nine times as much money as it costs to run, police say.
Restorative justice was launched as a pilot scheme in east Bolton in 2009, then rolled out by police across Greater Manchester the following year after it was deemed a success.
Last year it was used, on average, three times per day in Bolton.
Police say it is sometimes more effective than prosecution, because it reduces reoffending, thereby saving £9 in associated costs for every £1 spent.
In order for it to be used, the criminal must admit to what they have done and be capable of understanding the consequences, and the victim must agree to the solution.
Restorative justice can be used, for example, when youths cause “anti-social behaviour” problems that affect vulnerable people, such as throwing stones at windows or daubing graffiti on walls.
Under restorative justice, perpetrators often write letters of apology, repair vandalism or do voluntary work.
Sometimes victims come face to face with the criminal and tell them what impact their actions have had.
Police say they usually use it in cases in which people have just started getting in trouble, or with criminals who have a chaotic lifestyle and problems with drink or drugs.
The restorative justice solution can then be used in conjunction with other services to help them beat their problems and turn their lives around.
In one incident, five children aged 12 and 13 apologised to the co-owner of Blackrod Community Playgroup, Carole Bell, to confess they had smashed up a play area.
To make up for it, the youngsters paid for the damage out of their pocket money and helped repair fencing.
In another case, a 13-year-old boy apologised to a 17-year-old sixth-form student after he punched him and broke his nose.
Afterwards, the victim’s mother said: “It’s common sense and it prevented my family from having to go through a traumatic court case.
“I wanted to make sure this boy didn’t do it again and realised the implications of what he had done.
“The photographs of my son’s injuries gave him a really good idea of the seriousness of how he had suffered.”