Support for Restorative Justice raised in Parliament

Published: Friday, July 7th, 2023


This is a blog by our Communications and Events Coordinator Keeva Baxter.

 

On Tuesday 27th of June, Elliot Colburn MP raised the topic of Restorative Justice in the Victims Bill Committee debate in the House of Commons. He put forward an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners’ Bill which would give victims of crime a legal right to access Restorative Justice. 

The debate led to cross-party statements of support for Restorative Justice, and reassurances from the Rt Hon Edward Argar, Minister of State for Victims and Sentencing, that he wanted to “promote the effective use of Restorative Justice in appropriate cases”. 

Elliot Colburn MP, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Restorative Justice, began by introducing Restorative Justice as an “opportunity for a victim of crime, in certain circumstances that make it appropriate, to meet with the perpetrator of that crime, and that allows them to answer questions.” He emphasised that “the most obvious question that you get when you are a victim of crime is ‘why me?’, ‘why did this happen to me?’”. He explains that these are questions that “often court is unable to provide answers to”, but Restorative Justice is “designed to answer”.

Elliot Colburn MP went on to urge the Minister “to say a little bit more about the work in the Restorative Justice space that his department wants to do”, saying that he “would be grateful for some reassurances that this Bill will indeed enable and empower victims who do want to go through this process.”

Janet Daby MP of the Labour party also spoke out in support of Restorative Justice, emphasising that “Restorative Justice is really effective in prisons, in courts and in education.” She went on to argue that in order to ensure that people affected by crime can reap the benefits of Restorative Justice, it “needs to be fully resourced”.

Another show of support came from Rob Butler MP, who said he had “seen it work very effectively both in the courts and in the prison and youth justice systems”.

The Rt Hon Edward Argar paid tribute to the work that Elliot Colburn MP and the All Party Parliamentary Group do on “this important issue”. He argued that we “must be cautious of a general entitlement to access to Restorative Justice because that wouldn’t necessarily always be appropriate”, arguing that “offenders of course must also voluntarily agree to participate”. Why me? believe that everyone affected by crime should be given information about Restorative Justice so that, if they’re interested, they can be referred to an expert who will assess whether Restorative Justice is suitable in that instance. The process will only go ahead with the voluntary consent of all participants. 

Despite his expressions of caution, he went on to say he was “open to considering alternative approaches the Government can assist with to promote the effective use of Restorative Justice in appropriate cases”. This is a promising endorsement from the Minister of State for Victims and Sentencing that we hope will lead to increased Government support. He further added that he had sent a four page response to the APPG’s nine key recommendations to discuss what more can be done to achieve them. 

Whilst this show of support within the House of Commons is an encouraging step, the amendment was unfortunately withdrawn at the request of the Rt Hon Edward Argar. This means that no addition on Restorative Justice will be made to the Victims and Prisoners’ Bill at this stage. 

Why me? are disappointed that the amendment has been withdrawn as it would have been a powerful opportunity to address the low numbers of people affected by crime who are informed about Restorative Justice. We will continue to work towards increased access to Restorative Justice, ensuring that as many people affected by crime as possible are aware of their entitlement to information about it.

 

If you’re interested in hearing more about the Victims and Prisoners’ Bill, sign up to this month’s Restorative Justice forum.

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