The National Strategy for Out of Court Disposals: What about Restorative Justice?
This is a blog by our Campaigns and Communications Manager Meka Beresford.
Recently, the NPCC have released its 2022-2027 National Strategy for Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs). The new plan seeks to improve the effective use of OOCDs in order to reduce reoffending through education and support.
An OOCD deals with people who have committed crime in ways other than prosecution through court. OOCDs can take many different forms, such as a simple caution, a conditional caution, a penalty notice, or a community resolution. Restorative Justice can be used alongside any of these options.
At the moment however, OOCDs are being used differently across Police Force areas. The National Police Council tried to rectify this in 2017, publishing a national strategy aimed at unifying OOCD frameworks. However, an audit undertaken in 2020 showed only 15 of the 42 Police Force areas have implemented this new approach as it is not a requirement by law.
The new 2022 plan seeks to improve police use of OOCDs. The plan refers to Restorative Justice using similar language to the 2017-21 NPCC strategy, and while Why me? are pleased to see the reference to Restorative Justice within the document, the framework could go further to build upon the previous strategy.
Delivering Victims Rights
There is an opportunity within the framework to remind police officers that victims have a right to information about Restorative Justice.
This is something we know is not happening currently as only a small percentage (5.5%) of victims recall being made aware of the opportunity of support from Restorative Justice services.
Highlighting police responsibility around Restorative Justice will ensure that it is not marginalised within the new framework.
Restorative Justice is not specifically listed as a rehabilitative or reparative activity within the new framework. While apologies and making amends are listed, these are activities that are not necessarily synonymous with Restorative Justice principles when delivered on the ground.
We would welcome the principle of Restorative Justice being included as a reparative activity as part of either a diversionary or community caution.
Like the 2017-21 strategy, the updated strategy states that Restorative Justice should not be used for domestic violence.
Having universal access to Restorative Justice and ensuring that each case is assessed individually is incredibly important. By placing a generic exclusion on crime types, you prevent victims from accessing what they may need to heal and move forward. The victims’ safety is a priority in a Restorative Justice meeting, and facilitators will always ensure that no further harm is done.
Stakeholders will shortly be consulted regarding the code of practice to support the statutory framework. Why me? hope that there will be an opportunity to enhance the wording relating to Restorative Justice.
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.
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.