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With Restorative Justice (RJ) Week having just drawn to a close, we take a look at the latest proposals, discussions and awareness campaigns. 

16th November marked the start of the government’s ‘What would you do?’ campaign, supported by The Chris Donovan Trust. Actively encouraging direct public engagement and opinion, the campaign asked the public to think about what they would do if they could meet the person who committed a crime against them. Inviting members of the public to comment on the subject area using #whatwouldyoudo, it marked the start of an increased awareness of RJ. 

Initial figures released from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) suggest that restorative justice is working. Research from a number of pilot areas show that 85% of victims who took part in RJ were satisfied. It also highlighted that the process was linked to an estimated 14% reduction in the frequency of reoffending. The cost-savings look promising too, with every £1 spent on restorative justice, up to £8 is saved by reducing the cost of reoffending.

However, key to the success will be making sure that victims and those professionals working with victims and communities know about RJ. Knowing how to access it, how safe it is, and how it can meet the needs of victims is not going to be an easy task. We recruit across a diverse range of criminal justice, social care and healthcare sectors where knowledge of RJ would be beneficial, but all organisations work differently and will have varying methods of communication. 

On 20th November it was announced that Why Me?, RJ Working and the Independent Academic Research Studies (IARS) have been allocated £45,000 by MoJ in a bid to increase public awareness of RJ.   

It’s certainly a challenge for the three organisations, all allocated £15,000 each. It’s great that the need to raise awareness has been recognised though, which will help the professionals we recruit and the organisations they work for.

Victims, who might not have known about being able to meet an offender, will be given the opportunity to meet their offenders with the aim of repairing the harm caused by their experiences. The idea is that victims are able to meet the perpetrator and have an opportunity to be heard and get answers to questions. 

To work efficiently, and across all agencies, restorative justice would, of course, need to take account of individual circumstances on a case-by-case basis. 

Over the years, we’ve heard lots about the development of restorative approaches to criminal justice both to help victims and reduce re-offending.

Whilst restorative justice has ‘officially’ been known to the youth justice service by means of legislation for over 15 years, it’s a comparative newcomer to probation and other service areas. However, the knowledge and skills associated with RJ have migrated to education, social services, and a broader number of criminal justice agencies. One of the main drivers has been the need for greater punishment and reform for effective community sentencing, with a committed £30 million from the MoJ being spent directly on RJ. 

It’s crucial that a structured approach prevails though. It’s not just about raising the profile of the availability of restorative methods, but about having suitably trained and qualified practitioners that understand the wider impact of the approach. There’s also strict criteria that needs to be followed, as outlined by the newly formed London Community Rehabilitation Company (LCRC). It is made clear on the LCRC’s website that ‘Restorative Justice can only be considered when an offender admits his/her guilt and indicates that he/she regrets the offence and is prepared to meet with their victim and possibly apologise for their actions’.

A Judge or Magistrate can take into account the admission of guilt and order the offender to complete a Restorative Justice Specified Activity Requirement (SAR) as part of a Community Order. If the victim agrees and it is safe to do so, a Restorative Justice Conference is arranged. If it’s not possible for a conference to be arranged, attempts are then made to ensure apologies are passed to the victim. 

Awareness then, needs to be carefully delivered to the general public; to manage expectations and the processes involved. It’s all a very positive move - for some victims, closure is just as important as seeing justice delivered and we look forward to hearing more about the wider adoption of the new RJ processes across the UK. 

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