It is time for a National Restorative Justice Action Plan

Published: Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

This is a blog by our Campaigns and Communications Manager Meka Beresford

This week Scottish Justice Minister Keith Brown announced the launch of a new national Restorative Justice hub and regional test hubs in Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders area.

The hubs come as part of a four-year national RJ action plan that is being rolled out in Scotland.

The plan which was implemented in 2019 has three principle objectives:

  • That Restorative Justice is available across Scotland
  • High quality Restorative Justice services are delivered by trained facilitators
  • There is a strong public awareness and understanding of RJ in Scotland

Why me? Director Lucy Jaffé discussing the launch of the RJ hubs in Scotland.

The rollout of the hubs comes after Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister Naomi Long announced the first ever Adult Restorative Justice Strategy for Northern Ireland in March this year. The strategy, which runs from 2022-2027, has been developed with statutory, voluntary and community sector partners.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland are compliant with the Council of Europe Ministerial recommendation on Restorative Justice to have a national plan, alongside other obvious steps to ensure that RJ is available to all.

However, England and Wales are still falling behind in a national approach to RJ, despite repeated calls by Why me?, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Restorative Justice, and advisory board members of the APPG for the implementation of a national plan.

What would a national action plan on RJ do?

There is some great work being carried out by elected Police and Crime Commissioners to make RJ available in their area, but we know through our Valuing Victims work over the last seven years that delivery is inconsistent between areas.

A national plan on Restorative Justice could help eliminate some of the difficulties in delivering RJ, and in turn help to improve access to RJ for all victims.

This plan should be clear on how to end misconceptions about RJ, improve offers of RJ throughout the entire justice process, and refine monitoring and evaluation of RJ. This could be achieved through guidance access (high-quality and easy access to RJ with no bans), evidence (examples of how RJ has been successful), awareness (making sure those in the criminal justice system know of RJ), and capacity (having the funding for consistent national delivery of RJ).

In taking these steps, which should be more clearly outlined in a national action plan, the current unnecessary barriers that prevent victims from accessing RJ will begin to be removed.

Successful RJ requires the collaboration of professionals who work with victims and offenders. A good action plan will bring leaders from victim services, prisons and probation together to make sure that victims get a chance to have their voices heard.

Next steps

We know that across the board there is a belief that RJ is a beneficial resource for victims, now we must take a step to ensure that RJ is consistently delivered.

As the Victims’ Bill makes it’s way through pre-legislative scrutiny, we’re calling on Justice Minister and Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab to bolster the RJ provisions in the legislation with an overall national strategy to bring all parties together and to monitor and evaluate delivery to make sure good quality services are having the impact intended and reaching the right people.

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