Criminals do community service at Cherry Tree Estate

Offenders are paying back their debt to society by putting their skills to good use

Offenders are paying back their debt to society by putting their skills to good use - Credit: Archant

Criminals sentenced to repay the debt of their crimes to the community have been painting and cleaning Havering’s estates, schools and community centres. They were joined on Monday by Recorder reporter Hayley Anderson.

Offenders are paying back their debt to society by putting their skills to good use

Offenders are paying back their debt to society by putting their skills to good use - Credit: Archant

Dilapidated areas, in need of a coat of paint, repairs or cleaning, have been transformed – but those holding the brushes are not your average painters and decorators.

Havering Council hosts a Community Payback programme providing resources for convicted criminals to give a new lease of life to ­estates, schools, and community centres, as part of their unpaid work requirement.

Community Payback manager, Kellie Finch, said: “These people have done wrong and are doing their time by doing something productive for a lot of people who live here.

“They are trying to make a fresh start and put whatever they did behind them.”

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More than 1,800 hours worth of unpaid work has been completed on all projects in the borough from last September to August.

The work has consisted of painting and picking up litter and removing weeds from paths and walkways.

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Offenders can be sentenced to up to 300 hours of community service, for ­offences including theft, drink driving and fraud.

Kellie said: “When they do this work they learn a lot of valuable skills, which they can use in their own lives.

“I do think it is helpful and hopefully it will help them move on to do things that are more productive.”

A 26-year-old man, who wishes to remain anonymous, was ordered to complete 108 hours of community service for his involvement in a street fight after a friend’s birthday party, last year.

He said: “It was a very stupid thing to take part in and this has taught me that maybe I need to control my ­anger and learn not to get so worked up about things.”

The offender has spent hours after work and at the weekend, painting railings and bollards at the Cherry Tree Estate, in Cherry Tree Lane, Rainham.

Work at the Cherry Tree Estate has been in progress since March.

Other estates have been part of the project, including the Briar Road Estate, in Harold Hill.

Estate inspector, Tony Anslow, said: “This is a great way for these places to be spruced up. The people who live here are more than happy for them to do the work and so far they have done ­really well in making the ­estates look a lot better.” The 26-year-old has also served his sentence at Gaynes School, in Brackendale Gardens, Upminster, and the Millennium Centre, in Rush Green.

Kellie said: “All of the ­offenders are already in the community.

“They’re everywhere and you wouldn’t even notice them.

“They’re not dangerous people, they’re just like everyone else but the difference is that they’ve made some really bad choices.”

The project is looking to continue work on the Cherry Tree Estate before deciding on the next location to receive attention.

The 26-year-old offender added: “I will never do anything like what I did ever again.

“This has made me realise that there is so much to lose if I keep losing my temper.

“My advice to everyone would be to think before you act as you can never know how it will end.

“I don’t want other young people to make the same mistakes that I did as this is the consequence they have got to live with.”

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