A gang of youths who broke into a Castle Cary factory have been ordered to make amends by washing site windows and picking up rubbish by a restorative justice panel.
A three-month police campaign which tracked down 14 children involved with causing £1,000 of damage to the Torbay Road factory ended last month.
The group scaled three-storey scaffolding to break into the building between Friday, September 23 and Monday, September 26.
Police investigations led to five arrests, with nine others pulled in for questioning.
Considerable damage was caused to a factory weaving loom with gas cannisters thrown to the ground from the top floor.
Stolen tools including a blow torch were later handed in to police, but a Stanley knife taken from the scene remains missing.
Investigating Police Community Support Officer Dan Arthur said the powers of restorative justice are a good way of dealing with young offenders.
“If these children had gone through the courts they would not have come in contact with the victim, the managing director of the company,” he said.
“We held two restorative justice sessions with each child attending with a parent.
“I think the adults were quite shocked at how many youngsters were involved.
“The whole experience was quite sobering for them, hopefully it will stop them doing anything like this in future.”
Scaffolding had been erected to carry out building repairs, leading to a small window at the top floor that had been left open.
Five children from the group, aged between 11 and 15, climbed through to access the factory floor.
Beat manger Charlie Allen took the five who entered the building into custody for interview with their parents.
The worst of the damage was done to an industrial weaving loom, used for fabric stitching and upholstery.
Staff there spent two days in a clean-up operation as silicone powder had also been thrown around.
“We questioned the five children we had arrested and they each implicated more of the children involved,” added PCSO Arthur.
“It was important to make all of them realise how dangerous it is to play in an industrial area. If any of the gas cannisters had exploded we could have been dealing with a disastrous situation.
“These kind of incidents are quite rare but also very dangerous.
“If the scaffolding had not been there or the window had been closed, it is unlikely this would have happened.
“We spoke with the children and their parents and discussed what needed to be done to give them something safer to do in future.
“They said they wanted a skatepark in the town so we will be liaising with the town council to see if this is a possibility.”
PCSO Thelma Mead said: “Using restorative justice enables the police to offer victims better support and closure after incidents like this.
“The victim takes an active role in the restorative justice process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and to repair the harm they’ve done, by apologising or returning losses to the victim.”
The Castle Cary Beat Team called the hearing primarily to make the offenders accountable in front of the victim and to demonstrate that the building is not derelict.
It is hoped that the restorative justice session will also prevent further reoffending by the involved parties and will send out a clear message that this behaviour is unacceptable.
To find out more about what your local beat team is doing in your area, visit www.avonandsomerset.police.uk.