Anniversary of service giving victims chance to hear apology

A SERVICE providing victims of crime in Dorset with the opportunity to speak directly to offenders, explain the impact of the crime and receive apologies has been running for a year.

Restorative Dorset, commissioned by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill, is marking its first anniversary of helping people harmed by crime to move on by bringing them together with those responsible.

Feedback from users has been positive, with one writing: “It was important for me to hear his history. It helped me to hear that it was just random. Knowing his story made a real difference to me. That was a valuable experience to me and I will remember it forever.”

Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “Restorative justice is a vital service, making a huge difference to people whose lives have been turned upside down by crime. It gives a voice to people who feel they have been left voiceless and allows offenders to take responsibility for what they have done.

“It empowers victims, allowing them to look their offender in the eye, get answers to their questions and sometimes even an apology. It helps them move on and even helps deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Offenders, who often don’t understand the impact their crimes have, can also use this as a wake-up call and a chance to change – ending the revolving door of repeat offending.”

The service, which was commissioned to run for three years, has cases referred to it from Dorset Police, local authority anti-social behaviour teams, housing associations as well as self-referrals from both victims and offenders and cases are only brought forward once all parties agree to take part.

They make sure appropriate support is provided to people participating throughout the process, which can take several months to complete, to make sure they feel comfortable taking part.

A range of practices have been used including face-to-face meetings, letters between the parties, and shuttle communication – in which the victim and the offender do not meet directly but communicate via a facilitator.

The service, which has three coordinators and 14 volunteers, is now working with agencies to promote the service.

Poole Community Safety Manager Anthi Minhinnick, who is commissioned to run the pan Dorset service, said: “I’m really pleased that we are able to offer a Restorative Justice Service in Dorset. Restorative Justice is a voluntary process and requires both parties to participate.

“It is important that we are able to offer victims the opportunity for their voice to be heard throughout the criminal justice system. Our aspiration will be to increase our referrals and see even more positive outcomes for victims of crime across Dorset.”

Anyone who would like further information about Restorative Dorset or would like to consider becoming a volunteer facilitator should email the team at restorativedorset@poole.gov.uk.

Read more about the value of restorative justice here.

 

Case Study

An offender who had carried out a burglary told police officers he wanted to take part in restorative justice to say sorry to those he had harmed and was referred to Restorative Dorset.

The victim was angry at what had happened and wanted to know why they had been targeted, why someone thought they had the right to violate their home and take from them.

The offender and the victim were both visited over a period of months to help them understand the process, with the victim reassured about going into a prison to speak to the offender, and preparing  specific questions for the offender.

The victim was given the chance to hear from the offender about why he committed the crime, was reassured they had not been targeted, that their house had not been watched and that they had not been singled out.

The offender felt guilty as he told the victim he had simply saw an opportunity to commit a burglary with no thought to its after effects.

They both found the process to be cathartic and used it as a stepping stone towards resolution.

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