Restorative Cleveland take action against Hate Crime
In June 2019, Why me? visited those involved in delivering Restorative Justice in Cleveland to find out about their approach to hate crime, and to meet Ann Marie Pearson, who had been a victim of a hate crime.
Restorative Cleveland is managed by Becky Childs, who runs the service with Paul Shaw. Their approach to hate crime is to work in partnership with other organisations, such as the police, community officers from local authorities and youth offending teams, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies. PCC Barry Coppinger provides leadership and funding and was represented by Sarah Wilson on the day we visited. The PCC has funded three posts related to hate crime: community cohesion officers, refugees and asylum seekers officers and communities’ officers.
Below is a profile of how the different parts of the Restorative Cleveland team work together to help give victims of hate crime access to Restorative Justice.
‘I’m an avid believer in the power of Restorative Justice. It can be incredibly worthwhile for a victim to make contact with the person who has caused them harm, whether via written letter, mediation or face-to-face.
Everyone’s Restorative Justice journey is different – but it offers an invaluable opportunity for the victim to explain what impact the offender has had on their lives and the themes of education, forgiveness and closure.
Education is particularly important when using restorative interventions between offenders and victims of hate crime. Ignorance is the real catalyst of hate and through Restorative Justice, the offender has the chance to learn more about diverse communities they share the world with to prevent further offending.
I remain committed to ensuring as many victims as possible have access to the high-quality service offered by Restorative Cleveland and will do what I can to promote Restorative Justice locally and nationally.’Barry Coppinger, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland
We spoke to Ann Marie, who was being bullied on the bus every day. She got in touch with Restorative Cleveland, who listened to the impact of the bullying and talked to her about her options. They then facilitated the making of a video with her to send out to schools so that young people realise the impact of the harm they can cause through bullying.
This meant that her story could reach hundreds of young people, while she only had to tell it once, and was protected from being exposed to numerous audiences. Her powerful testimony is an inspiration to everyone, but also a tribute to the work carried out by the restorative team in the area and the partnership work between them and other agencies.
At all times she was supported by Self-Advocacy worker, Louise Lamont, who also assisted with the transcription of the Why me? consent form to Easyread form.
Hate crime is highly motivated by ignorance, especially from the younger generation. Sarah Wilson (Community Engagement Lead in the Office of the PCC) spoke about their hate crime reporting centres, the most successful being the ones who deal with diverse protected characteristics. They have also focused efforts on taxi drivers, the majority of whom are Asian and are regularly subject to racial abuse from drunk passengers. Sarah said their hate crime champion training gives people the confidence to report and encourages others to do so, leading to a rise in hate crime reporting.
Jeff Parkes, a Police Officer, and Satnam Singh, a former community cohesion officer, were adamant that the answer to tackling hate crime is in partnership, and developing a multi-agency approach.
They also believe that we need coherent and key messages which are repeated consistently across all agencies.
Alex Evison is a police staff officer funded by the PCC and co-located with RJ Cleveland, which is part of the Safer in Tees Valley charity. She monitors and evaluates Community Resolutions recorded by officer and, checks they are doing Community Resolutions and Restorative Justice appropriately. Her role is also to get Police officers to think restoratively when dealing with the victim and offender and ensure the individuals involved consent to participate. She reports quarterly to the Performance Board, chaired by the PCC.
Alex also works one day a week out of Middlesbrough Police Station to provide advice and consultations for Police Officers (POs) face-to-face. She goes to Integrated Offender Management Team (IOM) meetings to discuss cases where Restorative Justice can be used. Becky Childs emphasised how the team has tried to integrate Restorative Justice more neatly across the Force by putting out videos and quotes from Police Officers who have successfully used Restorative Justice in order to challenge misconceptions. It is also helpful to get the officers to sit in on cases so they can see Restorative Justice happening first hand.
Paul Shaw, an experienced Restorative Justice professional, described a scenario where he facilitated Restorative Justice in an Anti-social behaviour case, which involved a young person and a local store. The young person was sorry that they had acted in the way they did and when Paul reported this to the store representative, they were impressed by the trouble Paul had taken to resolve the case, and pleased to hear that the young person apologised. There is a difference between this approach and one where police officers tell offenders to say sorry, which is not a restorative approach but is widespread among some police forces.
‘It is important for police officers to put victims at the centre of the criminal justice system rather than seeing them as a resolution to sentence the offender as it may not be want they want or need to move on from the crime.”Paul Shaw
He highlighted this when expressing how we can dig deeper with victims about what they want and educate them on options. Ultimately the goal should be to let archaic structured approaches go and be replaced by appropriate practical and emotional support.
Paul gave another example of how important Restorative Justice can be to all parties. On a night out, a young man from Middlesbrough University said to the victim ‘stop being so gay’. The victim was originally from Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is illegal and he found this intensely upsetting. The young man then pushed and shoved him, so he played dead and once the police came, the perpetrator was arrested. After being referred to Restorative Cleveland, he was upset as this was not ‘who he was’ and he wanted to apologise. Paul met the victim several times and supported him to write a letter to the young man who attacked him, saying ‘there is no ill feeling in my heart and if I saw you again, I would hug you’. The university were going to throw the victim out until they saw this letter, showing how important this process can be.
The partnership working was highly impressive and clearly reaps rewards in terms of both victim recovery and offender behaviour. Becky and the team work tirelessly to ensure that the restorative message and service are understood by both victims and the professionals serving them and the Cleveland communities. Becky said her message to victims was, “Your voice matters, your voice will be heard. And if we have to work creatively to make that happen, we will happily take that challenge on.”
With thanks to Becky Childs (Restorative Cleveland Manger), Paul Shaw (Restorative Cleveland), Alex Evison (Restorative Cleveland), Jeff Parks (Police Officer), Sarah Wilson (Community Engagement Lead OPCC), Satnam Singh (former Community Cohesion Officer), Louise Lamont (Self-Advocacy Officer, Stockton CAB), Jack Stalks (Victim and Witness Care Officer), and Ann Marie Pearson.