Widespread support for Restorative Justice amendment in the House of Lords
This is a blog by Communications Officer Keeva Baxter.
On Wednesday 12th January, a proposed Restorative Justice amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was debated during its Report Stage in the House of Lords. The amendment required the Government to publish a new Restorative Justice action plan every five years and report on its progress. The amendment was tabled by Baroness Molly Meacher, working alongside Why me? and the Criminal Justice Alliance. Following the debate and withdrawal of this amendment in the House of Lords in November 2021, it was modified to call for an action plan every five years rather than every three years, reducing the pressure on the Government. The previous National Restorative Justice action plan expired in March 2018 and was not renewed.
We are disappointed that the amendment was withdrawn as it would have been an effective way to ensure regular monitoring of Restorative Justice across the country and increase accountability. Having said this, there was widespread support for Restorative Justice amongst the Peers, with a total of 9 from all political parties speaking out in favour of the amendment.
Baroness Meacher began the debate by highlighting the power of Restorative Justice and its “far-reaching impact” for both the victim of a crime and the person who committed it. She further argued that the amendment would be an “enormous improvement on the complete absence of national leadership on this issue since 2018”. Baroness Meacher acknowledged the entitlement to information about Restorative Justice that currently sits in the Victims’ Code of Practice, but argued that “this is simply not happening”.
Conservative Peer Lord Cormack agreed with Baroness Meacher’s argument “wholeheartedly”, stating that it was strange to see no recognition of this beneficial process in such a large Bill. Lord Hodgson echoed this sentiment, saying he had followed the work of Why me? and believed that the amendment was a “modest” and “worthwhile” addition to the Bill. Following this, Crossbencher Lord Sentamu spoke about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, with an emotive testimony about the power of Restorative Justice. Baroness Jones, Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Laming and Lord Ponsonby also stated their support for the amendment. Lord Paddick, who was previously the Restorative Justice Lead for the Metropolitan Police, questioned whether the Government were going to be led by the evidence or were going to allow Restorative Justice to be misconstrued.
Having heard the support for Restorative Justice amongst the Peers, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar for the Government said that they were committed to Restorative Justice and acknowledged its “far-reaching benefits”. However, he argued that Restorative Justice was not excluded from the Bill and was in fact covered by the current content, for example in the Out of Court Disposal provisions. He concluded that requiring a continuing action plan would be an “unnecessarily bureaucratic burden” and requested that Baroness Molly Meacher withdraw the amendment.
We are disappointed that the Government will not be acting upon the proposed amendment as, without the action plan in place, there is no “restoration of national leadership on this issue”. Lord Wolfson’s concern that participants may feel forced to take part in a restorative process is misplaced, as Restorative Justice is centred on the principle of voluntary consent from both parties. We also know that Restorative Justice can be extremely powerful for all types of crime, including serious offences, and the testimony of our ambassadors with lived experience attests to this.
We would like to thank Baroness Molly Meacher for tabling the amendment and her fellow Peers for showing their support in the House of Lords. We will continue to champion Restorative Justice and fight for it to be included in legislation, in particular in the upcoming Victims’ Law and through the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice.
If you are interested in discussing this topic further or wish to speak to someone at Why me? about Restorative Justice, please contact us at email@example.com.