Putting Victims First — Director Lucy Jaffe and Rosalyn Boyce spoke at the Public Policy Exchange Conference
When I accepted to talk at the Public Policy Exchange Conference on 26th September 2017, I asked Why me? Ambassador, Rosalyn Boyce to join me. We make a great double act. I set the scene and provide background information and statistics. Then Rosalyn takes over and talks about her first-hand experience of being a survivor and an RJ Graduate. The impact is electric and all eyes and ears are for Rosalyn. She persuades people to act and makes changes so that more victims can get justice. Where practical, Why me? make sure that we attend events and meetings with victims of crime, who talk directly to people in power and professionals about their experience. It is worth taking a few minutes to read Rosalyn’s story along with those of the other Why me? ambassadors.
At the Conference we talked about Restorative Justice, Victim satisfaction rates and the role of Why me? in opening up recovery routes for victims through RJ.
Why me? is a leading national organisation promoting RJ for and to victims. We explain the benefits through our website and media work. The charity campaigns for more victims to get access to it and for it to be delivered in a safe and appropriate way. We also run a national RJ service for victims and organisations working with them.
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice is a facilitated and voluntary process where both sides answer the following questions:
- What happened?
- Who has been affected?
- What can be done to put things right?
- What should happen next?
It can be used with any crime at any time as long as it is offered and facilitated in safe and supported way.
Restorative Justice gives victims the opportunity to have their questions answered – Why did you burgle my house? How did you get in? What have you done with my jewellery? What made you attack me? What were you thinking at the time? Do you realise what impact you have had on my life?
When we become victims, we have scripts in their heads which are replayed again and again. Some of these are the event themselves and many are ‘what ifs’. What if I had locked the door, double checked my windows, shouted out, taken a different route? These questions are rarely answered in court. For the offender, the victim is a page of A4, a probation report, a Victim Personal Statement.
Victims who take part in RJ report satisfaction levels of over 85%. Many report feeling empowered and taking back control of their lives. Often their sleep is restored and they can walk down the street with confidence and look people in the eye. As one victim of violence put it very eloquently to me,
I have gone from being a victim to a victor.
Criminal Justice system
We all need to have confidence in the justice system. First to protect us against crime but also to protect and support us if we become victims. 1 in 5 adults in England Wales become victims of crime every year. At every stage of the criminal justice system, there are opportunities for victims to get their questions answered and to cope and recover. The ability of victims to take up these opportunities or even know about them, as outlined clearly in the The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime is limited.
Once a crime is reported, the state becomes the prosecutor and we, as victims, become the sideshow in the justice process – useful as witnesses; irritants as victims who need support and answers. Research by Victim Support in April of this year – Victim of the System – has shown that where victims do receive their entitlements, satisfaction rates shoot up.
If we simply examine the way the £9bn budget of the Ministry of Justice is spent, most of that money is allocated for offenders, their prosecution and punishment, against a tiny amount put into victims’ services – £66m distributed via Police and Crime Commissioners for victims services in the last year. We are then not surprised that confidence and satisfaction rates amongst victims are below 50% in almost all stages of the criminal justice system.
So let’s take a look at victims’ entitlements under The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (2015) and, in particular, Restorative Justice.
Under Sections 7 of the Victims’ Code, victims have a right to be informed about RJ, principally by the Police. Where resources are available, then RJ should be provided in a safe and professional way.
Interestingly in the same code, if the offender is a Youth, then victims not only have a right to know about RJ but also have a right to be offered it. This is another example of victims being a secondary consideration – the resource being offered is dependent on the age of the offender!
Restorative Justice can get a victim answers to questions, it can bring peace of mind, and it can make offenders realise the impact of their actions. Our recent Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice has revealed that victims who received RJ from their local Police and Crime Commissioners in the last year are extremely satisfied – rates of at 93% – 100% are being reported. Not only are the victim satisfaction rates high, but reoffending rates, where they are being evaluated, are lower than average.
And yet in the 2016 British Crime Survey, only 4.2% of victims recall being offered RJ. and in 2017 this had dropped to 4.1%. How can this be right?
What should happen next
We require a commitment from Government to honour the Victims’ Code and implementation of their National RJ Action Plan
We encourage the professionals amongst us – Victim Liaison Officers, Police, Police and Crime Commissioners, Victim organisations – to make victims aware of RJ and its benefits for them. The more that Restorative Approaches are incorporated into professionals’ work, the easier it becomes to make victims aware of the option of RJ without causing further harm.
Why me? provide a national RJ service – both direct to victims and in support of regional services. We have a strong track record in understanding how best to introduce RJ to victims and have examples of good practice on this website.
We offer general advice, run awareness sessions and offer bespoke Victim Focus training to help Police and Crime Commissioners and RJ services keen to place victims’ needs at the forefront of the service delivery. Call us on 020 3096 7708 to speak to our team.