Becoming a victim of crime is often a traumatic experience. Many victims feel that their life has been turned upside down, and what was once normal and familiar no longer feels safe. Whilst the criminal justice process deals with the offence, it can sometimes leave those harmed feeling out of control and in need of answers that simply cannot be provided during the formal process.
Restorative justice can change this.
Restorative justice brings together people harmed by crime or conflict with those responsible for the harm, to find a positive way forward. It enables victims to meet or communicate with their offender to explain the full impact on them of the crime which they have experienced and to ask questions important to them. It helps to repair the damage caused by the crime, often by showing the victim the reality of who the offender is, but it puts the needs of the victim first. When a crime has taken place, restorative justice can be used to give the victim, offender and, occasionally, members of the community the chance to come together and discuss how the harm can be rectified.
The process not only gives victims a voice and helps them gain closure on their cases by explaining to offenders the impact of their actions; it also encourages offenders to take responsibility for their behaviour. The long-term goal of restorative justice is to reduce crime. Research shows offenders who take part in restorative justice with their victims are less likely to reoffend.
When is it used?
Restorative Justice can only be used when the offender accepts responsibility for the crime and the victim agrees to a restorative approach. Restorative Justice can be used at any stage of the criminal justice system and can be delivered across all offences. Victim participation is always voluntary, based entirely on the victim’s informed choice and delivered at a pace to suit the individual. Restorative justice is not a soft option – for many offenders, facing up to their actions is very difficult.
Introduced as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the Community Remedy provides victims with more of a say in the delivery of criminal justice.
The Community Remedy is delivered through a process called Community Resolution. To use a Community Resolution, the officer must have enough evidence for a case to be brought to court and the offender must admit their guilt. The officer must also decide that the matter would be better dealt with in the community following consultation with the victim.
The types of offences appropriate for a Community Remedy include criminal damage, low value theft, minor assaults (without injury) and anti-social behaviour.
After an offence has been committed, police officers will present victims with a list of four out-of-court punishments to choose from. These options give victims a voice in how justice is delivered.
The options available through the Community Remedy were decided following public consultation undertaken by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent.
The four options agreed are:
1. Reparation to damage caused (e.g., repairing damage to property, cleaning graffiti, or returning stolen property)
2. Paying for the damage caused to be repaired or for the property stolen to be replaced
3. A verbal or written apology which is genuine and acceptable to the victim
4. A restorative approach which allows victims and offenders to put their views to each other without meeting face to face
The final decision on how to deal with the offender is made by the police. The decision taken must improve public confidence in the use of out-of-court disposals and must not breach human rights.
If an offender fails to carry out the actions they have agreed to through the Community Remedy, they can be brought to court.