Does the new Out Of Court Disposal framework have implications for Restorative Justice?
This is a blog by Why me? consultant Trevor Watson.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 provided powers to allow for the preparation of a code of practice to accompany the new two-tier Out of Court Disposal framework.
This approach is intended to allow flexibility in the new Out of Court Disposal regime and the ability to respond to operational needs, which may change over time. This ‘flexibility’, as we pointed out in our March 2021 report, Restorative Justice – An important tool in the Government’s Smarter Approach to Sentencing, means that in addition to the statutory community and diversionary cautions, additional disposal options will include community resolutions and access to deferred prosecution schemes.
So where does Restorative Justice sit in this framework?
The National Police Chiefs’ Council Charging and Out of Court Disposals national strategy document 2017-2020 states that “[Restorative Justice] can be used alongside any outcome, either as a condition for an Out of Court Disposal or separately”.
This should be the guiding principle in regard to Restorative Justice – it is a clearer and more widely applicable description of the role Restorative Justice can play, and could be a key principle of any future practice guidelines for Police and Courts and should be included within the code of practice guidance.
What does this mean in practice and why is it important?
The statutory framework identifies Restorative Justice as an option to consider as a rehabilitative activity as part of the new diversionary caution. This is a good approach, but a restorative approach should not only be considered for this type of Out of Court Disposal. It is essential that service commissioners recognise that this is not the only gateway to a restorative process.
Practices should be in place to ensure that restorative approaches continue to be considered at all stages of the justice process, including after the justice process has concluded e.g. post-sentence. This is especially relevant for victim-led Restorative Justice.
Stakeholders will shortly be consulted regarding the code of practice to support the statutory framework. It should be a priority for the restorative community to ensure that the code reflects the importance of ensuring restorative approaches are not limited in application and that the opportunities for Restorative Justice to support offenders and victims are maximised.
Why me? will publish details of the code of practice consultation when it goes live.