APPG report on Restorative Justice – let’s make change happen
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice has released its first report: Restorative Justice APPG Inquiry into restorative practices in 2021/22.
This follows an inquiry involving ten oral hearing sessions and many written responses from across the sector. Why me? and our ambassadors contributed significantly to the process, and are glad to see this reflected in the report.
The report’s story is a familiar one for Restorative Justice professionals. Progress has been made over the past decade – particularly in the justice system – but more needs to be done. The solution is not one simple change to the law, or updated piece guidance, or allocation of funding – although all of these interventions could help. Instead, it requires a series of targeted interventions across the criminal justice system to improve understanding of Restorative Justice, widen its availability, and provide greater accountability for ensuring that it is used effectively.
So how can we do that? The report makes nine key recommendations, all of which would lead to positive change. There are three that Why me? consider to be particularly important:
Improving quality through effective monitoring and evaluation
This recommendation calls on the Ministry of Justice to “develop guidance for gathering and using data to monitor and evaluate Restorative Justice.”
This is critical, because if no one is keeping track of the extent to which Restorative Justice is happening in different parts of the country, then how can we target improvements? The Ministry of Justice requests data from PCC-funded restorative services each year, but they do not publish or analyse the findings. For our Valuing Victims project, Why me? requests this data through a Freedom of Information request but the inconsistency between what different areas record and the narrow range of questions provided limits the scope of the findings.
A proper monitoring and evaluation process would help to identify good practice, and drive improvements to the accessibility of Restorative Justice across the country.
Publication of a new Action Plan
The APPG calls on the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office to publish a new joint action plan for Restorative Justice and practices. This builds on the work which Why me? and the Criminal Justice Alliance have been undertaking with Baroness Meacher, who has recently tabled an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill calling for an updated Restorative Justice Action Plan to be published every three years.
We know that there is good practice regarding Restorative Justice happening in silos across the country, but nobody in Government is stitching this together or ensuring consistency. There is no Ministerial or civil servant lead on Restorative Justice, and the previous Restorative Justice Action Plan expired in 2018.
A new Action Plan would provide the strategic direction needed to improve consistent delivery of Restorative Justice across the country, and deliver sustainable change.
Rights for victims through the Victim’s Law
The Government plans to introduce legislation giving specific entitlements to victims of crime. The APPG has called on this law to include a specific right for victims to be referred to and access Restorative Justice services.
This is a great opportunity to embed the entitlements which exist in the Victims’ Code of Practice into law, and add a better enforcement framework to ensure that these rights are delivered. The Victims’ Code already includes an entitlement to information about Restorative Justice and how to access it, but the vast majority of victims of crime do not receive this information in reality. If it gives clarity about how the these rights will be monitored and enforced, then the Victims’ Law could open the door to Restorative Justice for people across the country who have been harmed by crime.
This report lays out in black and white the problems and barriers that restorative providers have witnessed for many years. Let’s work with restorative-minded people in and out of Parliament to make change happen.