YOUNGSTERS who broke into, and trashed part of their own youth club in Newstead have made amends by helping the venue to flourish again.
The group targeted the club’s base on Tilford Road next to the Newstead Centre.
Two of them hid inside until it closed and then let friends in for an afternoon of football and pool.
They then made a hole in a wall to break into a locked room to steal sweets and drinks.
A volunteer found a fire door unlocked and the site in a mess, so he called the police to report a suspected burglary.
An investigation led Pc Sarah Cheetham to local youngsters, one of whom admitted their part before three others confessed too.
But instead of launching a criminal prosecution, Pc Cheetham reached for restorative justice — a system whereby offenders work to make good their crimes.
The children became involved in fundraising meetings and now help out at the club, alongside youth workers.
As a result, the venue has become an even greater focal point for the youngsters of Newstead and, on some nights, it attracts double its previous attendance.
Said Pc Cheetham: “Instead of progressing down the criminal justice route, which could have driven a bigger wedge into the community, I spoke to everyone involved and arranged for them to come together and talk about what had happened.”
The meeting, which was held last month, brought together young people and parents and gave the culprits, who were aged between 10 and 16, a chance to explain themselves.
Other youth-club users were able to explain their frustrations because the vandalism caused the club to be closed for an extra night each week so repairs could be made.
Youth worker Paul Ashby said that when he discovered local young people had caused the damage, he was very annoyed.
But he added: “Since then, the young people have taken a real interest in the club. They’ve become involved in informal meetings and are helping out.”