What does the draft Victims Bill mean for Restorative Justice?
Today (May 25, 2022) the draft Victims’ Bill was published. The much anticipated draft offered a once in a generation opportunity to enshrine victims’ rights in law. This has never been done before in a single piece of legislation.
The draft does not make any reference to Restorative Justice. This is a missed opportunity to strengthen access to Restorative Justice for victims.
However, we are happy to see that The Secretary of State must issue a code of practice. This Code of Practice should largely look like the Victims’ Code of Practice, but we would like to see Restorative Justice provisions and access bolstered in the Code before the Bill is enacted.
This would include the following changes (in bold), which were developed alongside the Restorative Justice Council, to the current code:
Right 3: To be provided with information when reporting the crime, including information about Restorative Justice services
3.4 If the offender is an adult, you have the Right to receive information about Restorative Justice from the police and a trained restorative practitioner and how to access Restorative Justice services in your local area. If the offender is under the age of 18, you have the Right to receive information about Restorative Justice from the Youth Offending Team.
3.5 Although the police are responsible for providing you with information on Restorative Justice initially, all service providers must support the offer of this information at multiple stages of the criminal justice process so that you may make an informed choice as to whether you wish to explore it. Information about RJ should always be provided by a trained and experienced RJ practitioner who will be able to answer any questions you have about it.
Right 4: To be referred to services that support victims, including Restorative Justice services, and have services and support tailored to your needs.
4.2 Throughout your case, all service providers must give you the opportunity to be re-assessed if you tell them how your needs have changed. This should include referral to Restorative Justice services.
4.4 Services that support victims, including Restorative Justice services, are there to help you cope and, as far as possible, recover after a crime. Access to support is free, even if the crime hasn’t been reported to the police. For further information about the support in your area, contact your local Police and Crime Commissioner or visit: www.gov.uk/get-support-as-a-victim-of-crime
As well as the addition of the following to Rights 6, 7, 8, 9, 11:
Although the police and a trained Restorative Justice practitioner are responsible for providing you with information on Restorative Justice initially, all service providers must repeat the offer of this information at this stage of the criminal justice process, so that you may make an informed choice as to whether you wish to explore it in the light of the progress of your case. Information about RJ should always be provided by a trained and experienced RJ practitioner who will be able to answer any questions you have about it.
The enshrining of Restorative Justice in the Victims’ Bill would greatly benefit from:
- A national action plan on Restorative Justice
- A named Minister and senior civil servant tasked with delivering the action plan
- Providing the Victim Commissioner and PCCs with new powers to request information at local and national level via Local Criminal Justice Boards and the national criminal justice agencies – the CPS, HMCTS and HMPPS – about delivery against victim entitlements
- Publishing an annual Restorative Justice report on the national action plan progress which is laid before parliament
We need big change to reap the rewards of Restorative Justice, and right now in the UK there is a real opportunity for the Government to commit to making it available for everyone affected by crime and conflict.
That opportunity presents itself as the Victims’ Bill. The Bill is being prepared to go through Parliament this year, and the Government has long promised it will strengthen the rights of those of us who are harmed by crime. This legislation offers the Government a chance to be the champions and world leaders in RJ by:
- Legislating for Restorative Justice to be available to every victim of crime at the point of need.
- Providing statutory footing for the 12 entitlements in the Victim Code of Practice.
- Creating clear leadership from the top with a National RJ action plan to be laid before Parliament every year, a dedicated Minister of Restorative Justice and team of civil servants.
- Substantial investment into making Restorative Justice available to everyone.
The Bill is now at pre-legislative scrutiny stage and the Justice select Committee is accepting evidence (deadline June 10).
Why me? will be submitting evidence.