What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice is the communication between someone who has been harmed (victim) and the person who was harmed them (offender). This communication could be in the form of a meeting between both parties with a trained RJ facilitator, a letter or by messages/questions passed through the RJ facilitator.
There are 3 levels of Restorative Justice, all follow the same principles.
Level 1 - Using Restorative Justice Interventions as an Out of Court Disposal to deal with low level crime
‘Street’ or ‘instant’ Restorative Justice is referred to as level 1. If you are a victim of a low level offence (such as criminal damage, theft or common assault) and the offender doesn’t have any recent convictions for a similar offence, then when the police officer is investigating the incident, they may ask if you would like to deal with the incident by Restorative Justice. This is voluntary, and if you don’t want to deal with the incident in this way, then the officer will seek to deal with it another way.
The officer will show you a community remedy leaflet, which lists the options of how to deal with the incident, you can look at all of the options and see which option you feel is most appropriate to repair the harm caused. Some of the interventions are aimed at reducing reoffending, diverting low level offenders away from causing further crime or Anti-Social Behaviour. The options include restorative methods such as an apology face to face (with the officer facilitating), a letter of apology, or a Restorative Justice conference where a trained RJ facilitator (often used for more complex/persistent cases or cases with several victims/offenders). The options available to pick from are;
- Apology - face to face or letter
- Level 2 Restorative Justice - RJ conference
- Engagement with parents – involving a young offenders parents to agree an appropriate outcome for future behaviours
- Reparation – repairing damage caused or participating in a community scheme to conduct some form of community work.
- Monetary Compensation – if you have suffered a financial loss due to a theft or damage then that money could be compensated to you.
- Victim Awareness Course – with the aim to educate the offender around the impact of crime on victims to look to reduce reoffending
- Mediation – family disputes or neighbour disputes which have led to the incident could benefit from mediation. We also offer anger management to address any anger issues that led to an incident
- Drug/Alcohol referral – If the offender has committed the crime/ASB due to alcohol or drug issues, you could opt to send them to a session to look to help them with these issues
- Fairbridge Programme – Princes Trust deliver this programme for 16-25 year olds who aren’t in full time employment or education with the aim to develop the offenders skills to divert them away from crime and into education or employment.
It is important that you as the victim are completely happy with this method of disposal, and your voice is heard in the decision as to what intervention is to be completed. It is also important that the offender is able to fulfil the intervention, so if the officer thinks they are unable to, they may ask you to choose another intervention.
Level 2 – Alternative or in addition to Criminal Justice process
Level 2 is a more in depth intervention, whereby the victim and offender have the opportunity to meet, with a trained facilitator, whereby they can discuss what happened and the effects. This can be used by police officers where the typical ‘level 1’ resolution could not take place immediately for whatever reason or to tackle more serious or persistent matters that have a clear impact on communities.
This can happen by referring into Restorative Cleveland for them to facilitate the RJ for them. A level 2 conference may have great effects on more complex cases to look at resolving the issues, and reduce reoffending.
Restorative Cleveland is a partnership approach to RJ commissioned by OPCC to deliver Restorative Justice throughout Cleveland. Any victim of crime is entitled to Restorative Justice should they want it and the offender is known. Anyone can refer into the service, weather it be an organisation or a self referral from the victim. Once a referral is received a trained facilitator will engage with the victim and offender and see if a conference is appropriate. If not then other methods of Restorative Justice like letter of apology or a shuttle conference could be used.
Level 3 – Post Sentence
This type of RJ works post-sentence with more serious offences and offenders and can be undertaken whilst offenders are in prison. Cases may be complex and sensitive and offenders may be prolific, monitored by integrated offender management (IOM) teams and deemed at risk of continued offending.
As a victim under Victims Code of Practice 2015 you are entitled to receive information about Restorative Justice. If the offender of the crime has been identified then there is an opportunity for the victim to participate.
Participation is completely voluntary and you can change your mind at any time. The facilitator will be there to support you throughout the process and you can have a friend or family member there with you during the conference if you want to.
Once you have agreed to participate the facilitator will meet with the offender to explore if they would participate and their motives for doing so to ensure the meeting is safe.
This process allows you to get questions answered, tell the offender how their actions have impacted you and give you a chance to get an apology or anything you need to help you to move on from what has happened. It also puts you in control of what happens moving forward.
Government research demonstrates that restorative justice provides an 85% victim satisfaction rate.
Some of the benefits of Restorative Justice for victims include;
- Getting answers – why me?, was I targeted?, will it happen again?
- Feeling safe again
- Regaining control and closure
- Feeling empowered
- Regaining confidence
- Gaining the confidence to put it behind you and move forward
Along with the many benefits to victims, Restorative Justice can also have a positive impact on offenders. Studies show that offenders who meet their victims are 41% less likely to commit crime again in the future, which means fewer victims in the future.
To be able to participate in Restorative Justice, offenders must accept responsibility for their actions and demonstrate a genuine willingness to make amends. Preparation is conducted by the facilitators to ensure the meeting or other form of communication is appropriate, safe and has value for attendees.
For more information visit www.restorativecleveland.co.uk
To find out more about the benefits to the victim take a look at the following videos;