Restorative Justice (RJ) is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims, offenders and the wider 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.
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. It can be an alternative way of dealing with a crime and/or anti-social behaviour rather than going through a more formal route using the courts. However, it can also operate alongside the criminal justice system, in response to a more serious crime.
The principles of RJ can be applied to many situations including education, communities and neighbourhoods, families, the workplace, equalities and health & well-being.
Who is involved?
Usually the participants are the victim and offender, alongside trained facilitators. Sometimes it is appropriate that the victim is represented or supported by a family member or someone from the local community.
What can I expect as a victim of crime?
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Code of Practice for Victims of Crime sets out that all victims of crimes or incidents carried out by adult offenders are entitled to receive information about Restorative Justice and how they can take part. If you are a victim of a crime or incident carried out by a young offender you are entitled to be offered the opportunity by the Combined Dorset Youth Offending Service 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 enabling them to have 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 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?
RJ ensures the wider community has a direct voice to explain the impact an offender’s behaviour has had on the local area, and to help inform the outcome.
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 more serious.
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 in which the victim offers 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 chances of future employment.
RJ has been shown to provide value for money for the criminal justice system, saving £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.
How do I access RJ services in Dorset?
The OPCC commissioned the Restorative Dorset service from September 2017, delivered through the Community Safety Team of BCP Council for offences committed by adults (18 years old and above). This has been in operation since September 2017 and provides both Restorative Mediation for anti-social behaviour cases and RJ for all crimes.
This includes cases in which the offender has already been convicted, subject to a robust risk assessment process. For more information go here or to contact the Restorative Dorset Team call 01202 223106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To access RJ for crimes committed by children and young people (under 18 years old) please see the ‘Youth Out of Court Disposals’ section here. The Safe Schools and Communities Team (SSCT) will refer more serious crimes onto the Combined Dorset Youth Offending Service (YOS), who can also offer RJ to victims.