Restorative Justice can be used to address anti-social behaviour, but it must be used right

Published: Thursday, April 6th, 2023

Communities need urgent support to address anti-social behaviour in their area. But what kind of support do they want, how is that decided and what is going to make a lasting difference in complex situations? Our Director Lucy Jaffe explores.


The recent Government announcement to introduce ‘immediate justice’ is designed to address anti-social behaviour by introducing 48-hour punishment and reparation work. We also note that victims of anti-social behaviour from the local community will be consulted and given a say in offenders’ punishments to ensure justice is visible and fits the crime. Given the strong evidence for the effectiveness of Restorative Justice, it would be a wise move to ensure that the principles and practice of this well-established approach are used more widely to ensure that communities feel safer and that lasting solutions are found.


In our experience, the first need expressed by victims of crime is for the person to stop. They want to live without the fear that it will happen again, but also to prevent future victims. Our work in Torquay with retailers, shopworkers and Police revealed a culture of fear on the high street generated by increased anti-social behaviour including verbal abuse, spitting, and damage to premises. In despair, community leaders called for greater policing and clampdown on the individuals, but Police were over-stretched and limited in what they can do. We began working in the community 6 months ago and have since established a referral route, appointed a dedicated Restorative Justice champion from the local Neighbourhood Policing team, and delivered workshops on victims’ rights and accessing Restorative Justice. These are all steps towards improving the experiences of victims and strengthening the relationships within the community.


Restorative Justice offers a way for people who commit crime and those affected to be involved in the solutions. It offers a process for the people affected to be consulted about what they want, so that it meets the needs of local residents. It also helps people to realise the damage they have done and change their behaviour.

As the Portland Mayor, Peter Roper, said, “Locally, we need to drill down on what is enabling this behaviour to take place.”


Good Restorative Justice will take longer than 48 hours, especially if victim views are to be taken into account properly. In a community there are many different voices, but also the overriding concern is for the situation to improve. Often the people who are behaving anti-socially are from the same community. This means that whatever approach is used, it needs to have the greatest chance of stopping the offending behaviour. Whatever is agreed, whether restorative or the ‘immediate’ justice proposed by the Government, it needs to be monitored and victims need to be told about outcomes and progress.

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