Restorative Justice aims to reduce the risk of offending amongst even the most prolific offenders by bringing together the offender with their victim to enable the victim to ask questions and the offender to hear the impact of their crime and take responsibility for their behaviour.
Restorative Justice is available across West Yorkshire and involves a combination of staff and specially recruited and trained volunteers who can help to facilitate contact between offenders and their victims.
Restorative Justice holds offenders to account for what they have done, personally and directly, and helps victims to get on with their lives.
Offenders, whose crime has a direct victim (but not domestic violence or sexual offences) are assessed for both their suitability and motivation for the process. If the offender agrees, the Restorative Justice Facilitator (RJF) contacts the victim to discuss the offence and to see if they want to take part. There are a number of ways this can happen:
- a facilitated face to face meeting between the offender and victim
- indirect mediation where the facilitator raises questions or issues with the offender and feeds back to the victim
- a letter of apology from the offender
If the victim doesn't want to take part, the facilitator can undertake work with the offender to challenge their offence and get the offender to put themselves in the position of the victim in a mock conference, making them literally swap seats to see things from a different perspective.
Responses from offenders and victims are incredibly positive. Victims get to see the offender as a person and not a 'devil' or 'monster'. Responses from the conferences held show that most victims want the offender to stop offending and ensure no-one else has to go through what they have experienced.
Most offenders going through the process find facing a victim far more difficult than going to court. An outcome agreement is completed at the end of the meeting which details what the offender will do to make amends. Almost all outcome agreements are met.
National research shows that recidivism is reduced by around 27% after participation in Restorative Justice (Home Office 2011).
Restorative Justice is now an integral element of all Intensive Community Orders where there is a victim and they want to be involved.
Restorative Justice in Bradford has been so successful that Bradford Safer Community Partnership seconded Probation Officer, Kate Brooksbank, to set up a new initiative, Neighbourhood Resolution Panels. These aim to use Restorative Justice principles to deal with lower level crime including anti social behaviour. During 2011 Kate recruited and trained 20 volunteers who will facilitate the meetings between victim and perpetrator. Interest in volunteering was high which points to a great success when the initiative launches in summer 2012.