How can Restorative Justice be used to ease the pains of the past?

Published: Thursday, February 3rd, 2022


This is a blog by our Development Officer Leah Robinson.

 

LGBT+ History MonthLast week marks the beginning of LGBT+ History Month 2022. This year also celebrates an important moment in LGBT+ history as being the 50th anniversary of the first Pride March in the UK in 1972. 

Why me? would like to use this platform to discuss the use of Restorative Justice for historic crimes or incidents against members of the LGBT+ community. Following the new scheme which has been listed as an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, an individual can apply for a previous conviction to be removed from their criminal record if it was imposed for consensual homosexual activities based on now-abolished laws. 

However, despite the undeniably positive implications of these convictions being revoked, there are likely to be many individuals who still felt harmed by being criminalised and prosecuted for their sexuality. This highlights the ability of Restorative Justice to help repair historic harm, as there is no time limit on when Restorative Justice can take place. In fact, some of our ambassadors with lived experience went through a restorative process a number of years after the crime(s) took place.

The recent three-part BBC documentary The Nilsen Files highlights the media and police attitudes to the victims which led to missed opportunities to identify and charge infamous Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen due to dismissed allegations and missing persons reports based on homophobic beliefs. Last December, the inquests into the deaths of Stephen Port’s victims emphasised again how police failings, possibly driven by homophobic views, led to Port committing further murders. This is a clear example of where harm has been caused to the victims’ families but also to the wider LGBT+ community. Restorative Justice has a potential role in repairing that harm.

Many victims and survivors have felt failed by the traditional justice system. While Restorative Justice cannot act as an alternative to criminal justice processes, it can offer people affected by crime the chance to talk through what happened, their thoughts and feelings and find a way to move forward. Restorative Justice could have a role to play in addressing the harm caused by the press and police handling of cases such as Port and Nilsen.

This can be even more important for incidents of hate crime, as those who are harmed are targeted for their identity. In these instances, as is the case for LGBT+ hate crime, Restorative Justice has the power to break down barriers between victims of hate crime and their offenders, with the potential for significant benefits for both parties.

For those who are having their previous convictions of consensual homosexual activities pardoned, it may not be enough to have a clear criminal record after years of potential suffering. Additionally, for anyone affected by LGBT+ hate crime or homophobic attitudes in high profile cases, Restorative Justice could offer those affected the chance to gain clarity and closure in order to move forward with their lives. 

Why me? are currently working on a project focusing on improving awareness of, access to and provision of Restorative Justice for LGBT+ hate crimes and incidents in London. If you are interested in getting involved or would like to hear more, please contact Leah Robinson at leah.robinson@why-me.org.

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