Restorative Justice and the Victims Bill

Published: Friday, January 20th, 2023


This blog is by our Campaigns and Communications Manager, Meka Beresford.

 

Yesterday the Government published its much-anticipated response to the Justice Select Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny report into the draft Victims Bill.

The pre-legislative scrutiny report made 47 recommendations to improve the proposed legislation and ensure that the Government’s ambition to place victims at the heart of justice was met. 

Recommendations made by the Justice Select Committee included an improvement in the legislation in relation to Restorative Justice:

A right to information about restorative justice and how to access local restorative justice services is already an entitlement in the Code but it is clear that it is not being delivered consistently. Our predecessor Committee’s 2016 report on restorative justice recommended that the Victims’ Law should include a provision for victims to have a legislative right to access restorative justice services. That is also our view and we recommend that that right be included in the Bill as we have set out in paragraph 34.

 

The Government has opted not to take forward the recommendation, stating that the right to access Restorative Justice is not ‘practical or appropriate’.

We regret the Government’s decision not to accept this recommendation, as it damages the Government’s opportunity to focus on victims and make sure victims’ right to justice and support is met.

The Victims Bill offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen Restorative Justice in key legislation. Why me? will continue to work with the Government and lawmakers to highlight this missed opportunity. We expect the draft legislation to be introduced to Parliament in May, which will provide more opportunities to secure better access to Restorative Justice for victims. 

Out of the 47 recommendations made, only five have been accepted. These include placing an obligation on criminal justice agencies to make victims aware of the Code and requiring data to be standardised to allow comparison across police areas.

Currently, victims’ awareness of their rights under the Victims’ Code of Practice is incredibly low, with only a quarter of victims reporting being made aware of the Victims’ Code. This is even lower for Restorative Justice, with only 5.5% of victims recording being made aware of Restorative Justice. 

Requiring statutory services to make victims aware of their rights will help improve victims’ access to Restorative Justice. However, there is a concern about how exactly the Government intends to monitor this obligation until the proposed framework is developed.

Despite the failure at this stage to further strengthen the Victims Bill in relation to Restorative Justice, we welcome the positive decisions to maintain the Victims’ Commissioner’s oversight of the Victims’ Code, to amend the legislation to include a wider definition of a victim, as well as increased statutory guidance on the roles of ISVAs and IDVAs.

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