Increasing access to justice: The role of Restorative Justice for LGBTQ+ hate crime

Published: Friday, February 16th, 2024


This is a blog by Linda Millington, who was the manager of our LGBTQ+ hate crime project for four years. She has written the first of two blogs exploring our learning from this work. This blog explores why victims of LGBTQ+ hate crimes rarely access Restorative Justice and how this gap can be addressed.

 

Hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community are on the increase. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that over the last five years, hate crimes based on sexual orientation are up by 112% and hate crimes against trans people have risen by 186%. There is huge under-reporting of these offences for a number of reasons, including victims’ fears about the reaction from the police and the perception that these crimes are not serious enough. Combined with the number of hate crimes a person experiences across their life and the opinion that reporting would not lead to any change, it means that the Criminal Justice System does not meet the needs of those affected by LGBTQ+ hate crime.

Restorative Justice has the potential to break down barriers between victims of hate crime and those responsible, leading to significant benefits for both parties and a decrease in the number of LGBTQ+ hate crimes. 

Why me?’s five-year project ‘Access to Justice: Restorative Justice for LGBTQ+ Hate Crime’ sought to see how Restorative Justice could repair the harms caused by LGBTQ+ hate crimes and incidents. The overall conclusion reached was that Restorative Justice is significantly under-used. This may be because of a lack of knowledge about the benefits of Restorative Justice or a reluctance on the part of potential referrers, for example the police, to pass on information. The underreporting of LGBTQ+ hate crimes and incidents combined with mistrust of the police and other statutory agencies may also impact on the number of potential referrals for Restorative Justice. 

Our findings show that there are complex barriers to the LGBTQ+ community accessing Restorative Justice, but also several ways for restorative services to address these barriers. As many harmed people from the LGBTQ+ community do not want to pursue the traditional criminal justice route, a restorative approach can provide a way for their thoughts and feelings about what happened to be expressed. However, the referral criteria for some Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) funded restorative services means that the victims of LGBTQ+ hate crime may not be able to access Restorative Justice locally. For instance, some services may require the incident to have been reported to the police and/or there to be an outcome, such as an out of court disposal or a court sentence, from the criminal justice process.

We highly recommend that restorative services reach out to organisations working with the LGBTQ+ community. Why me? found it invaluable working with Galop and the Free2BAlliance, and these partnerships resulted in reciprocal training sessions, the establishment of referral pathways and better awareness and understanding of Restorative Justice and its value in hate crime cases. The offer of Restorative Justice from professionals engaged with those affected by hate crime and who have a good understanding of Restorative Justice, rather than from the police, has the potential to increase the numbers taking part. 

We also found that there are very few instances where those harmed by LGBTQ+ hate crime and those responsible meet in a restorative conference. Often there is a reluctance for harmed people to take part in a face-to-face encounter with the harmer. Restorative services are encouraged to work creatively in response, as demonstrated by the Sussex Restore DiverCity programme. The case studies collected as part of our project show how shuttle mediation, the use of proxies and the education of harmers about the impact of hate crime can have powerful results, with those harmed expressing their satisfaction with the outcomes of the restorative process. These case studies will be explored in more detail in next week’s blog.

Why me?’s new Good Practice Guide, launching on the 27th of February, is a great resource to increase understanding about how Restorative Justice can be used effectively to address LGBTQ+ hate crime. The Guide also includes examples of how restorative services and practitioners can adapt their practice to ensure that the needs of LGBTQ+ victims are met. On a personal note, writing the Good Practice Guide has made me think deeply about my own practice and how I can ensure that more LGBTQ+ people access Restorative Justice.

We would urge PCCs to ask themselves whether their funding criteria for restorative services is flexible enough to think outside the traditional forms of Restorative Justice. Otherwise they may bar referrals for LGBTQ+ hate crimes which have not been reported or where there is no formal criminal justice outcome.

To learn more about our LGBTQ+ hate crime project, sign up for the Good Practice Guide launch on the 27th of February, 2-3pm. By attending, you will be the first to hear the findings of our 5 year project and will hear directly from LGBTQ+ organisations about the barriers the LGBTQ+ community face in trying to access Restorative Justice. 

Sign up here. 

Read more in our Good Practice Guide.

 

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