Restorative Justice Week 2022: How can we widen access to Restorative Justice?

Published: Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022


This is a blog by our Communications and Events Officer Keeva Baxter.

 

This week is Restorative Justice Week 2022, an opportunity to raise awareness of Restorative Justice and the transformative effect it can have on the lives of people affected by crime. The theme this year is ‘Access to Restorative Justice’. Whilst the Victims Code of Practice states that all victims of crime have the right to be given information about Restorative Justice, we know that only 5.5% of victims are told about it. This means that the vast majority of people affected by crime do not have the opportunity to have their voices heard and gain closure through a process that centres their needs. We know that this needs to change, but how can we widen access to Restorative Justice?

Amplify voices of people with lived-experience

Why me? ambassador quoteRestorative Justice is a powerful tool that can change lives. The best way to see the effects of Restorative Justice is by hearing the stories of those who have lived experience of a restorative process. Our ambassadors have shared their stories in order to raise awareness of how it impacted their lives. By reading and sharing these stories, we centre the voices of people with lived experience and widen access to Restorative Justice.

National leadership

One of Why me? and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Restorative Justice’s key asks is that a national action plan on Restorative Justice is created, with a named minister to lead it. The action plan would create consistency across the nation in both delivery and monitoring and evaluation of Restorative Justice. This standardisation would mean that Restorative Justice is equally accessible across different Police and Crime areas. In addition, standardised data collection would mean that gaps in provision could be identified. Services could then understand who is not accessing Restorative Justice, what barriers stand in their way, and how they can work towards dismantling them.

Legislative change

Including Restorative Justice explicitly in legislation, with an effective accountability process to ensure it is being implemented, is one of the most effective ways to make widespread change. Why me? have been calling for Restorative Justice to be included in the upcoming Victims Bill, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen its provision. In the current draft Victims Bill, Restorative Justice is not included. One way you can help to promote the inclusion of Restorative Justice in the Victims Bill is by writing to your MP.

Ensuring that Restorative Justice is comprehensively covered in the new Out of Court Disposal framework would also strengthen the legislative power of Restorative Justice and remind police officers of its use for crimes being dealt with out of court.

Raise awareness amongst decision makers

The most effective change will come from the top. Most Restorative Justice services rely on funding from their local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) through the allocated Victims Fund. Our work with Police and Crime Commissioners found that very few had a specific budget ringfenced for Restorative Justice services. As a result, the service relies heavily on the buy-in of the current PCC in order for their funding to be continued. If more PCCs were aware of the benefits of Restorative Justice, they could ensure that the services in their area are adequately funded.

For every £1 invested in Restorative Justice, there are £14 of benefits.

One of the most powerful ways to get this buy-in is to demonstrate the effect it can have on people affected by crime in their area. Getting PCCs to observe a process first hand can help to dispel misconceptions and demonstrate its value. Having said this, policy-makers are often focused primarily on the economic value of their investments. Why me?’s new Economic Evaluation of Restorative Justice report, which was published earlier this week, shows the financial impact of Restorative Justice which can be used to raise support for it amongst decision-makers.

End blanket bans

There is a misconception around Restorative Justice that it can only be used for certain types of crime. As a result, people who have experienced crimes such as serious violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, or hate crime often struggle to access it. Restorative Justice can be used for any type of crime, and often has the most impact on those who have experienced serious crime. The facilitator’s role is to do a thorough safety assessment and ensure that the process is safe to go ahead. Demonstrating the power of Restorative Justice in cases of domestic or sexual violence, or hate crime can help to dispel the idea that Restorative Justice can only be safe and effective for some crime types.

 

All of the things mentioned above would help more people affected by crime to access the life-changing effects of Restorative Justice. This #RJWeek, help us to spread the word about the power of Restorative Justice.

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