Victims and Prisoners’ Bill Update – June 2023

Published: Friday, June 16th, 2023


This is a blog by our Director, Lucy Jaffé.

 

As you know, Why me? have fought long and hard to have the right to Restorative Justice (RJ) enshrined in law. This briefing is to bring you up-to-date with the progress of the long-awaited Victims and Prisoner’s Bill and the implications this has for Restorative Justice and victims’ access to the service. 

The Bill is published and had its second Reading in the House of Commons on 15th May. We were delighted to see a number of MPs speak in the second reading, indicating a good level of interest in ensuring smarter justice for victims. All those who spoke have received our joint briefing with the Restorative Justice Council and Criminal Justice Alliance and positive replies have come back from a few. 

 

Why me? Are supporting changes to the Bill as follows:

The right to be referred to a Restorative Justice service 

This fundamental right is not in the Bill at present. Too many times we hear about people getting blocked from access because they, or the crime they suffered, are judged to be not suitable for Restorative Justice. We believe the right to be referred will open up smarter justice for victims of crime and give them the choice rather than someone deciding about the suitability on their behalf. 

“I wanted him to be accountable to me – not to a judge, not to the police not to prison officers but to me. I felt my voice wasn’t being heard – the police, the courts, victim support all were making assumptions about what was best for me. I heard about a process called Restorative Justice and asked if it was something I could be involved with. I felt it would help me come to terms with what had happened and answer my questions. But it drained my energy to feel those who could help were putting barriers in my way instead.” Read Janika’s story to hear how she was blocked from access.

We are working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice to put down an amendment on this right. Chair, Elliot Colburn MP has asked the Public Bill Office to assist with drafting. Why me? will be submitting evidence to the Bill Committee (you can submit evidence too before 13th July).

The right to understand and be understood in different languages

Why me’s work with communities who speak English as an additional language has highlighted the urgent need for equitable access to services no matter what language you speak. Project Articulate has worked across migrant communities and organisations and found that many are simply not getting justice, including Restorative Justice, because the language barrier is too great. A joint Why me?, Hibiscus and Bell Foundation briefing has been produced with proposed amendments and we will be working with MPs and Peers to support these changes. 

The right to hear about Restorative Justice from a specialist service, rather than just the Police

We are working with the Restorative Justice Council and the Criminal Justice Alliance to ensure that this right is included and that the Bill provisions meet the Public Sector Equality Duty in this regard. It is really important to open up access to justice and ensure that people have the option to go to organisations they trust. 

Opportunities for the Bill to be amended:

  • A Committee of MPs will review the Bill between 20th June and 13th July. 
  • Report stage, which gives MPs an opportunity, on the floor of the House, to consider further amendments (proposals for change) to a Bill which has been examined in committee.
  • The third reading does not present opportunities for amendment but there will be a debate in the House of Commons.

The Bill will then go to the House of Lords. This stage is anticipated to happen in the Autumn, after the King’s Speech. 

Track the Bill’s progress

Watch out for calls to write to your MP! We’ll keep you updated through our newsletter and on our social media feeds – please repost when you see them.

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