Knowle West project puts victims face-to-face with yobs

May 11, 2009

A new approach to tackling anti-social behaviour is being tried in Knowle West.

But instead of the familiar attempts to introduce harsher punishments and to get yobs into the criminal justice system more quickly, Filwood Restorative Approach aims to get yobs and their victims to talk through problems face-to-face.

The scheme began last November, and relies on local people being trained as mediators in disputes. So far, 14 people have taken the week-long training courses and have dealt with seven cases. Mediators make sure the meetings between neighbours flow smoothly and do not get out of hand.

Exact details are strictly confidential, but most have been low-level anti-social behaviour issues, such as neighbours playing music too loudly, people’s dogs barking at inappropriate times and householders leaving rubbish in the streeet.

Co-ordinator Cynthia Goldstein says that although these are minor issues now, they can get much more serious if nothing is done. She said: “Potentially situations can escalate out of control and the initial problem is no longer relevant. It can get to an extent where the police are called in, rather than it being dealt with amicably.”

And she says it can have impressive results: “Restorative Approach is not a soft option. Everyone finds it difficult to say sorry; everyone finds it difficult to face a situation. It’s much easier to avoid it. But if people do face it and do so in a way that’s positive and without an agenda, the results are amazing.”

Val Blake from Knowle West is one of those who has been trained as a mediator. She hopes the initiative can can have similar results in the area as it has achieved elsewhere. She said: “The mediator asked the young lad who’d been doing some anti-social stuff how he felt about it. The boy said he had never been asked that before and no-one had ever cared enough to ask him. That turned his life around.”

Organisers hope to train as many people as possible in Knowle West to become mediators and to oversee an expansion of the scheme.

Audio: Martin Jones reports


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