Why me?’s three asks from the Restorative Justice Inquiry
This is a blog by Why me?’s Campaigns and Communications Manager Ben Andrew.
The written Inquiry from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice closed this week, concluding a long period of evidence gathering by Parliamentarians who share an interest in Restorative Justice. Why me? were glad to submit our written response, following on from the oral evidence which we and our lived experience ambassadors had already provided.
The Inquiry aims to look at the current use of restorative practice across the country, and give recommendations for how this can be improved. As a member of the APPG’s Advisory Group, Why me? recognises the huge opportunity presented by this call for evidence.
Our full submission goes into detail about the existing evidence supporting restorative practice, where restorative practice is already being used well, the barriers which are preventing its wider use, and how to raise awareness about its benefits.
We finished our submission by outlining our three key suggestions for how the APPG can help to drive change.
- Recommend an entitlement to access Restorative Justice in the Victims’ Law
After being floated by the Government for a number of years, it is likely that a Victims’ Law will come before Parliament next year. This piece of legislation, designed to create legally enforceable rights and standards for victims of crime, presents an enormous opportunity to strengthen entitlements to Restorative Justice. The Victims’ Code of Practice already entitles people affected by crime to receive information about Restorative Justice and how to access it. But, in reality, many people are never given this information. Codifying this entitlement in legislation would strengthen victims’ rights to Restorative Justice, and help us to drive forward its greater use in the justice system.
- Push for improvements to the Ministry of Justice’s collection of data about Restorative Justice
Why me?’s Valuing Victims series uses a Freedom of Information request to analyse Ministry of Justice data about the use of Restorative Justice across the country. While this does bring some useful findings, the reliability and scope of this data is limited. The Ministry of Justice asks restorative providers to submit data each year about their use of restorative practice. But there are some flaws in this process which hinder effective scrutiny of the way Restorative Justice is used in different areas. The Ministry of Justice could address this by:
- Publishing and analysing the data that Police & Crime Commissioners submit to the Ministry of Justice (rather than waiting for a Freedom of Information request to publish it).
- Working with restorative providers to help them submit the information required in a consistent and coordinated way.
- Widening the scope of the data requested so that it gives a broader picture of the outcomes of Restorative Justice for both victims of crime and people who have offended.
With these changes, the data that the Ministry of Justice receives would provide crucial baseline data of where Police and Crime Commissioners are making progress regarding restorative practice, and where further attention is needed.
- Call for the Government to design a Restorative Justice action plan, with a named Minister and civil servant lead.
The last Restorative Justice action plan from the Ministry of Justice expired in 2018 and has not been replaced. This is despite the significant changes which are needed to improve the use of restorative practice across the country. For these changes to happen, we need the Government to take strategic ownership of the issue, and drive progress. A new Restorative Justice action plan could accelerate and coordinate good practice across the country, and stitch together the good practice which exists across the country.
We are excited to hear the findings of this Inquiry in September 2021 and to work with the APPG on next steps. The chair and founder of the All Party Parliamentary Group, Conservative MP Elliot Colburn, has a huge opportunity to drive forward change for victims of crime. If MPs and Peers who believe in the potential of Restorative Justice work with specialists in the field, we can lobby for achievable changes which can help to unleash the power of Restorative Justice. Victims of crime deserve to be heard, listened to and taken seriously. Let’s work together to make that a reality.