First-time murderers given a Youth Restorative Disposal will receive no formal record provided they do not murder again.
The architects of the YRD, to be tested in eight counties, say it will give 10 to 17-year-olds who commit ‘low-level knife and gun crimes’ a chance to ‘take responsibility’ for their actions.
Justice Minister David Pansonfya said: ‘The court system is daily full of these minor murder offences . Our remit is to lower the workload so that we can carry on busting innocent motorists for speeding offences and bin mismanagement offences.
‘Stabbings and shootings are considered minor offences and are so prevalent in British society under Labour’s regime that we have taken the measures we feel are necessary in dealing with this situation.
‘By introducing the “Say you’re sorry” option for the police, all first time murder offences committed by teens will result in a short sharp ticking off and the problem will be solved.
‘It also frees up the police to deal with more serious offences like speeding, littering and road tax offences.’
But critics are likely to seize on the measure as another move towards ‘soft’ justice.
Adult offenders can already escape first time stabbing offences with a caution if they agree to apologise,
while shoplifters and thieves routinely escape with just a pat on the back and a nod.
Whitehall figures to be released today are expected to confirm this march towards summary justice, with more than
half of all murder offences now punished outside the courts. Fatal stabbings in England reached a low of 2300 deaths in October alone, a 12% drop from August, according to Whitehall.
Tory justice spokesman Nick Herberts said: ‘I remember the days when murderers were tried and sentenced even for their first murder offence’.
He added: ‘If these disposals prevent further offending then they could have a role, but they must be used properly.’
Occasions when a YRD could be used include a chav scum hoodie who says sorry for stabbing a pensioner boarding a bus or an armed thug who apologises for shooting a schoolboy in the head so he can have his i-pod.
The Youth Justice Board, which is in charge of the scheme, gave the example of two children who have a gun fight after school. Potentially-they could receive a conviction for causing actual bodily harm.
But by agreeing to hold talks together with a ‘restorative justice’ official, and apologising, they would escape any punishment.
YJB chairman Francesca Cone said: ‘It gives a young person who commits murder for the first time a chance to take responsibility for their actions and improve their behaviour, or even their technique.
‘We believe this is a positive way to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.’
Police backed the sanction saying it will cut down on paperwork.
Officers will decide to use it ‘on the spot’ and try to bring the criminal and victim (if still alive) together immediately to save on form filling.
Assistant Chief Constable Ian Shannon of North Wales Police said: ‘Many times the victim is barely alive but as long as the teenage killer says sorry then they can be pardoned, we also allow the killers to say sorry to their dead victims relatives.’
The YJB said a young criminal can receive an unlimited amount of YRD’s.
Officials said it prevents ‘young people from being drawn into the criminal justice system unnecessarily, which is costly in time and resources and may not be the best way to deal with a young person who commits a
low-level murder crime as their first offence’.
The YJB said that in some cases the apology would be backed by a plan to ‘make good any damage’.
Serious crimes, such as speeding, recycling bin crimes and late tax payments, are excluded from the scheme.
Earlier this year the Daily Squib reported how the increased use of on-the-spot fines had meant so few criminals were now being sent to court that magistrates’ courts had cut their hours.
A leaked letter to Staffordshire magistrates said the drop was ‘directly attributable to increased use of fixed penalties and notices by the police and Crown Prosecution Service’.