Victims say: Taking part in Restorative Justice helps the offender



Almost half of victims who opt to take part in restorative justice do so in order to encourage offenders to turn their lives around, finds a review published today by the Victims’ Commissioner.

Publishing her follow-up review, looking at the quality of restorative justice (RJ) services from the victims’ perspective, the Victims’ Commissioner found that the reason many victims participated in RJ was to help the offender and aide their rehabilitation. The Victims’ Commissioner, Baroness Newlove, also discovered that victims, while taking part to assist their own recovery, also wanted to find out why they had been targeted by the offender.

Many of the 35 victims interviewed as part of the review were satisfied they received a RJ service tailored to their needs and requirements. However, the proportion of victims offered the opportunity to participate in RJ has fallen significantly despite the government allocating £23m in funding for RJ services between April 2013 and March 2016.

Statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2015-16 revealed that only 4.2 per cent of all victims of crime were offered the opportunity to meet with their offender. This is significantly lower than in 2014-15, and is the lowest proportion of victims offered RJ since 2010.

Baroness Newlove said:

“The decision to participate in restorative justice (RJ) is first and foremost a personal choice. The reason why one victim may choose to participate will not be the same for everyone.

“However, access to RJ services needs to be consistent and available to all – including offering all victims the opportunity to participate. I want to see victims fully informed about RJ, so they can make the choice that is right for them.

“If criminal justice agencies really are committed to delivering RJ services, then awareness needs to improve – beginning with offering RJ to victims.”

The review also found that:

  • many victims were not initially aware of RJ and were reliant on criminal justice agencies to inform them about it;
  • almost half of victims were only offered RJ once the offender had been sentenced; and,
  • some victims felt that more could be done to ensure their emotional needs were being met throughout the RJ process.

The current government Restorative Justice Action Plan states that RJ should be available at all stages of the criminal justice system, so the Victims’ Commissioner found it surprising that some victims experienced police staff blocking their access to RJ before an offender had been sentenced. According to victims, the police reasoned that meeting the offender before they had been sentenced could be interpreted as leading the witness or that it could affect the sentence length the offender received.

Released during International Restorative Justice Week 2016 (20-27 November), A Question of Quality: A review of Restorative Justice Part 2 – Victims is the second and final part of the Victims’ Commissioner’s review into RJ services. The review offers an indication of victims’ perceptions and views towards RJ and their facilitators. The review recommends that:

  • Police and Crime Commissioners should consider how they monitor how many victims are offered RJ;
  • Police or the RJ service providers should develop local procedures to ensure the offer of RJ is consistently applied, throughout the criminal justice process;
  • RJ service providers should work towards a quality standard or indicator, and work collaboratively with other agencies, where required; and,
  • Further analysis from the Ministry of Justice is required in order to establish how to increase public awareness of RJ.

The review is a follow-up to Part 1, which considered what a quality RJ service looked like according to service providers. A Question of Quality: A review of Restorative Justice Part 1 – Service Providers found that victims who decided to take part in RJ received a bespoke service that addressed their individual needs. However, the Victims’ Commissioner raised concerns about whether RJ could be made more accessible and if this level of quality could be provided to all those who wanted to participate.

Links:

A question of quality: A review of Restorative Justice Part 2 – Victims can be accessed here

A question of quality: A review of Restorative Justice Part 1 – Service Providers can be accessed here

Restorative Justice data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2015-16 can be accessed here