Restorative justice service helps victims despite pandemic
As I look back on the end of my time as Dorset’s Police and Crime Crime Commissioner, I think about some of the services I have set up.
Something I’m particularly proud of achieving was commissioning Restorative Dorset to provide a service for the whole of the county, helping to provide victims with a voice and a sense of closure.
Creating a restorative justice service across Dorset was a priority of my Police and Crime Plan, and they’ve been carrying out this work now since 2017.
It was important for me to do this, as I know the real impact of crime can be something that remains long after the insurance claims have been settled and the policing work has been carried out.
Many victims are often left feeling dissatisfied and unheard, while many offenders do not face the direct consequences of their actions and simply return to criminality.
For example, those who carry out burglaries and thefts have been known to justify their crimes by saying the stolen items will be replaced through insurance – completely oblivious to the emotional impact their crimes have had.
Restorative justice, however, enables victims to meet their offenders, 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.
The offender, meanwhile, gets to appreciate the severity of what they have done. They can feel shame for their actions and leave the meeting wanting to make amends and put a stop to their criminal behaviour.
Restorative Dorset have dealt with well over 100 cases over the last year, involving a wide range of crimes including murders, assaults, burglaries, domestic abuse, and traffic collisions resulting in death and serious injury.
These cases have resulted in a number of outcomes, including letters of apology from the offenders.
Referrals have come from Dorset Police, from the prison and probation service and from agencies dealing with neighbours in need of mediation.
A recent review of a sample of these cases has shown that well over half of the offenders involved have not gone on to reoffend.
Meanwhile, students from Bournemouth University have been working with the organisation to produce a video explaining how restorative justice works.
All of this is encouraging considering the problems that the service, along with everyone else in the criminal justice system, have faced throughout 2020.
Covid-19 may have put many things on hold this year, but crime has not stopped, and victims continue to need support.
I am pleased that the service has been able to focus on using direct communication to help repair the harm caused by crime and anti social behaviour and they have stayed open for business throughout this year’s lockdowns.
As we mark Restorative Justice Week, I appreciate the service for the work they have continued doing this year.
Along with many similar services, restorative justice continues to adapt in order to meet the needs of clients in a safe environment, and like many of us they’re incorporating new ways of working, such as video conferencing to bring people together.
I hope we can continue to provide a restorative justice service to help Dorset’s victims of crime long after the Covid-19 pandemic is over, and long after my time as the county’s commissioner is over.