Three boys who smashed up an allotment greenhouse and cold frame were punished by being made to pay for the damage and clean it up themselves.
Police dished out their sentence as part of the restorative justice scheme, which aims to keep first-time offenders out of the court system.
The children, all under 15, were made to meet the victims of their crime and explain why they did it.
Freda Earl, who owned the cold frame, said: “They did it because when we throw stones at glass, it makes a very satisfying noise.
“A lot of young crime is mindless. Anything that stops it without wrecking them for life is good.”
One of the boys was helping clean up the damage for Mrs Earl on Monday – and she said his work went above and beyond what he had to do.
She said: “It is much better to make them be confronted by people they have done damage to, rather than giving them criminal records.”
She said learning how your actions affect others is part of growing into adulthood, and that the youngsters regret their crime – committed at Sunnyside Allotments, Berkhamsted, in early July.
She said: “It is other people’s jobs to help them grow up as well as possible without just punishing them.
“They learn that what they are doing does affect other people – so it’s not just: ‘Oh yeah, I have done that, I can go home, that was enjoyable.’”
She said restorative justice is a ‘civilised’ system of punishment.
Berkhamsted police sergeant Peter Huffer said: “I believe in this instance, this was the correct way to deal with these boys and I do not anticipate that they will re-offend.”