Restorative Justice (RJ) is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims, offenders and the involved community, as opposed to simply punishing the offender. RJ is victim focussed and lets victims tell offenders the real impact of their crime.
RJ is shown to improve victim satisfaction and reduce re-offending - this fits directly with two of OPCC’s Key Priorities:
- Priority 1. Reduce the number of victims of both crime and anti-social behaviour
- Priority 4. Reduce re-offending
How does it work?
RJ holds offenders, either young people or adults, directly accountable to their victims and can bring them together in a facilitated meeting. RJ can be an alternative way of dealing with a low level crime and/or anti-social behaviour rather than it going through a more formal criminal justice system route.
The principles of RJ can be applied to many situations including, but not exclusively to education, communities and neighbourhoods, the criminal justice system, families, the workplace, equalities and health & well-being.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has produced the following four minimum standards which all have to be met for RJ to take place:
- The offender must take responsibility;
- Involvement of the victim, community or other affected party;
- A structured process that establishes what has occurred and what the impact has been; and
- An outcome that seeks to put right the harm that has been caused or an outcome that makes other reparation that may not be directly related to the original case - for example rather than repairing damage done directly to the victim’s home, repairing damage done to a public building in the community.
Who is involved?
Usually the participants in RJ are the victim(s) and offender(s) of the low-level crime or anti-social behaviour and trained RJ facilitator(s). Sometimes it is appropriate that the victim is represented and/or supported by a family member or member(s) of the local community.
What can I expect as a victim of crime?
In October 2013 the Government, through the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), published the ‘Code of Practice for Victims of Crime’. This highlighted that victims of adult offenders are entitled to receive information about Restorative Justice and how you can take part. If you are a victim of a young offender you are entitled to be offered the opportunity by the Youth Offending Team to participate in voluntary RJ activities where appropriate and available.
What are the benefits for a victim of crime or anti-social behaviour?
RJ often improves victim satisfaction levels by them having a say in the way a crime or incident is dealt with. Victims are empowered and are able to suggest how the offender can acknowledge the impact of their actions and make up for some of the harm caused by their behaviour.
The process enables a victim to understand why they were victimised and offers ‘closure’ assisting them to ‘move on’ from the experience.
Evaluation found that 85% of victims that participated in the conferencing method of RJ were satisfied with the experience. The Government (MoJ) fully accepts these findings and so supports a face to face meeting being the aim of RJ intervention, but with a suitable alternative being used where the meeting is against the wishes of the participants or is not safe.
What are the benefits for a local community?
Ensuring that the wider community has a direct voice to explain the impact behaviour has had on the local area, and to help inform the outcome agreement.
Without formal criminal justice sanctions, there may continue to be repeat incidents of the same issue if victims and offenders have not resolved their differences. An RJ process at an early stage can prevent minor incidents becoming a major event.
What are the benefits for an offender of crime or perpetrator of anti-social behaviour?
Offenders are more likely to appreciate the effect of their behaviour in a face to face conference with a victim (or other stakeholders) with the likelihood of the victim offering honest and emotional comment.
The evaluation mentioned above also estimated a 14% reduction in re-offending. Using RJ for low-level crime and/or anti-social behaviour means that first time offenders are not criminalised for a one-off event, which if going through the formal criminal justice system would result in a criminal record that could affect their ability for future employment.
RJ has been shown to provide value for money for the criminal justice system as a whole, it saves £9 on criminal justice processes for every £1 spent on RJ (Restorative Justice Council, 2011).
Some outcomes of an RJ process can include a commitment by the offender to access support to resolve any underlying factors leading to offending behaviour such as alcohol misuse.
What is a Neighbourhood Justice Panel?
A Neighbourhood Justice Panel (NJP) is a face to face conference in which offenders of low-level crime and/or perpetrators of anti-social behaviour, and any wider involved community, to recognise the harm they have caused, and make meaningful amends for their actions.
A suitable crime or incident is checked against and passes the ACPO minimum standards by a police officer or a local council officer. A panel meeting is then arranged by a co-ordinator, following contacting both the victim and the perpetrator to ensure they understand the process. The panel meeting is facilitated by an independent RJ trained volunteer (often with a ‘co-facilitator’) to engage those in the conflict to be part of the solution through the delivery of an outcome agreement that meets the needs of the victim(s) and the wider community involved.
How are the NJPs monitored?
The PCC commissioned Dr Max Lowenstein, Bournemouth University to carry out an independent evaluation on the effectiveness of the pilot Neighbourhood Justice Panels (NJPs) delivering Restorative Justice (RJ) in West Dorset. The data was gathered from interviews with all types of participants. The participants were victims/their representatives, offenders/their representatives, RJ facilitators and the NJP Coordinator. The final report explained the NJP processes, impacts and the reasons for the high satisfaction and positive engagement rate, which had been reported previously in West Dorset following exit survey results.
The research aims were to:
- Understand what expectations matter most to the NJP participants.
- Understand how and why RJ via NJP is applied through the extent of satisfaction with the process.
- Inform NJP best practice by exploring the long term impacts of NJP agreements.
The evaluation identified the importance of:
- Preparation, experience and training of facilitators
- Increase in referrals
- Monitoring of long term impact of NJP outcomes
- Improving evaluation of NJPs
- Expanding availability of NJPs including geographic and levels/types of crime
As a result the evaluation forms (questionnaires), which are given to all participants in the NJPs, have been revised. This improves the monitoring of their effectiveness and enables improvements to be made if identified in the questionnaires.
For a more detailed summary of the evaluation and a copy of the full report please click here
How do I access Restorative Justice services?
- The OPCC is working with a range of agencies and organisations across Dorset to produce a strategy and action plan to deliver RJ across Dorset in a range of methods.
- Currently there are NJPs running in Poole, West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland. There are further ones anticipated during 2016/17.
- Work is taking place with probation and the prison service on post-conviction RJ cases in Dorset.
- The use of pre-sentence RJ processes is also under development with the courts service and other agencies in Dorset.
- Both Dorset Youth Offending Team and the Safe Schools and Communities Team run RJ processes to tackle offences committed by young people in Dorset.
- A community remedy consultation took place by the OPCC in 2014 and this included seeking people’s views on the use of RJ, for more information view our consultations page.