Restorative justice service deals with over 100 cases in year

A service that enables victims to get closure and offenders to make amends for their crimes has dealt with more than 100 cases over the last year.

The Restorative Dorset service – launched in September 2017 after receiving funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset – sets up face to face meetings between victims and the adult offenders who have carried out those crime.

The service enables victims to explain the impact that the offence has had on them and in some cases even get an apology – while offenders can play a part in repairing the harm they have caused, helping them move on from a life of crime.

Over the last year, they have dealt with dozens of serious and complicated cases including fatal traffic collisions, violent assaults, sexual violence and domestic abuse.

On Restorative Justice Awareness Week, positive feedback from those who have benefited from the service is being released to encourage more people to use the service.

One victim said: “The turning point for me was when I gained the courage to look at him. I felt I had suddenly taken control, I could see he was crying as he looked at me.”

Another said: “I felt he meant what he said about being sorry and although I wanted him to sign an agreement afterwards, I did not think that was important anymore. I believed what he said, everything that I needed to hear was said.”

Some cases are referred to the service from Dorset Police, housing anti-social behaviour teams, or Victim Support, while in other cases the victim or the offender contacts them directly.

Restorative Dorset makes sure appropriate support is provided to anyone taking part. The process can take months to complete, and as well as face to face meetings, practices can include letters between the parties and shuttle communication – in which the victim and offender do not meet directly but communicate through a facilitator.

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Restorative justice enables victims to meet their offenders face to face, in a safe and structured environment, and tell them exactly how the incident made them feel. It can allow the victim to ask questions and sometimes even get an apology.

“This means the victim is given a powerful voice, made to feel they are in control, and get a sense of closure, while there is also a lot of evidence nationally that it helps reduce reoffending. It’s important to say this isn’t an ‘easy way out’ for offenders – it’s used alongside the criminal justice process, not instead of it.”

If anyone wants to access the service should go here for more information or contact the team by calling 01202 223 106 or emailing restorativedorset@poole.gov.uk or restorativedorset@bcpcouncil.gov.uk.

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