Those who suffered at the hands of a group of graffiti-spraying youngsters would have been well within their rights to demand they face prosecution.
The five children involved were responsible for causing hundreds of pounds of damage around Havant, Hayling Island, Leigh Park and Bedhampton.
The damage that they inflicted was an eyesore, but their behaviour also showed a distinct lack of care for the feelings of those whose property was defaced.
But would issuing them with a caution really have made the desired impact?
We think there was a far better option available in this case and the police officers involved in making sure that happened should be praised for the part they played.
Rather than ensure the youngsters received a slap on the wrist, they taught them a lesson that we hope they will be far more likely to remember.
With the approval of their parents, plus the businesses and homeowners involved, they were made to clean up the mess they had made.
They spent four days scrubbing the walls they had so carelessly defaced and also tidied other neglected areas around the borough.
No-one could think that those involved deserved to get off scot-free. But, as this example shows, paying for the crime doesn’t always have to mean what you might think.
There’s real value in reparation and this was a meaningful way of making sure that the young people involved got to think about the consequences of their actions.
It also sends out an important message to the community as a whole, who could see these children were trying to put right their wrong.
At the end of the day, we are talking about a group of young children. Their age doesn’t excuse their behaviour but it does afford the police some leeway in finding a punishment to fit the crime.
There will be those who think making them clean up their mess harks back to an old-fashioned style of dispensing justice.
But in this case, we’d say what’s so wrong with that?