Shifting the power imbalance with Restorative Justice
This is a blog by our Campaigns and Communications Manager Meka Beresford.
When it comes to our justice system, I sometimes struggle to see the good. For years, I have seen so many survivors of sexual violence have their characters, their lives, carefully picked apart in courts. I’ve seen victims of hate crime let down as their cases are dropped. I’ve seen people unfairly targeted because of their race.
These issues are very real, and very present – just last month, misogyny, discrimination, bullying, and sexual harassment were found to be rife amongst officers at Charing Cross Police Station.
In 2020, reports of hate crime doubled from 2015, but fewer cases were resolved.
Last month, a report on the Crown Prosecution Service found that sexual violence survivors were waiting, on average, two years between reporting an offence and the beginning of a criminal trial.
The issues are overwhelming, but – importantly – they are not unfixable, which is why I’ve joined Why me? as Campaigns and Communications Manager. Every day, organisations like Why me? are working relentlessly to try and improve the justice system by empowering those affected by crime to have a choice in what happens after.
Restorative Justice offers everyone affected by crime the opportunity to understand what happened and give them a chance to move forward. For someone harmed by crime, it can give them the fresh start, an opportunity for closure. For someone who caused harm, the restorative process can give them an opportunity to be accountable, to talk about their actions, and maybe even apologise. Restorative Justice can shift the power imbalance that occurred during the crime, and it can pave the way for a life after crime, to rehabilitation, restitution, or even reconciliation.
That is why we must ensure that everyone affected by crime is aware of the opportunity to engage in a restorative process. In 2020, only 5.5% of victims were given the opportunity to meet with their offender in a restorative setting. This percentage must be increased, but there are a lot of blocks that we must work through – namely, the misunderstanding and misconceptions about Restorative Justice.
Take the ban on the use of Restorative Justice in cases of hate crime. Those affected by hate crime should have the same access to RJ as anyone else, especially given the low levels of satisfaction in police handling of hate crimes, but the tools are not made available despite the the opportunity RJ provides to empower, heal, and educate.
It is important to remember that crime is not a universal experience, so placing blanket bans on hate crime and Restorative Justice is ineffective.
We must prioritise the individual decision and empower them to engage in a restorative process if that is what right for those affected by that crime. The power of Restorative Justice is undeniable, just look at the incredible stories of our Ambassadors, and so we must do better in improving access and awareness, and I look forward to helping Why me? do just that.