A PIONEERING new experiment to stop Hampshire youngsters reoffending has had the nod of approval – from one of the Britain’s top politicians.

Moves are afoot to change the way the county’s young offenders are rehabilitated.

This includes a trial "Peer Court" in which a panel of young people are involved in suggesting alternatives to more traditional punishments.

Among them could be writing letters of apology to victims and setting up workshops outlining the consequences of their offences.

The £150,000 three-year pilot is being run alongside Victim Awareness Courses where people who commit seemingly petty offences learn more about the impact of their crimes.

Police bosses hope it will drive down repeat offending, easing the burden on busy court rooms and giving young offenders the chance to rebuild their lives.

Parts of the scheme will be included in a White Paper to be presented to the Justice Select Committee in April by Hampshire MP Steve Brine. Police bosses hope it could prove a hit nationwide.

Yesterday, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was in Southampton to meet the team driving the scheme forward.

Meeting with Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes, Southampton City Council’s Conservative group leader Royston Smith and PC Mark Walsh, Mr Grayling said: “I think it is a very innovative approach and I am a great champion of doing new things – it will be fascinating to see how this turns out.

“If it works we would be supportive.”

Hampshire police officer PC Mark Walsh travelled to the US to see similar initiatives in action and has helped to assemble 16 young volunteers to take part in the trial court.

Mr Hayes said he was encouraged by the Minister’s visit – and hopes one day Hampshire’s system will be rolled out across the country.

“I believe that it can work,” he said.

“It is being enthusiastically embraced by the young people and it will prove to be a satisfactory outcome for the victims.”