The Victims and Prisoners Bill: Where are we and what’s next?

Published: Friday, January 12th, 2024

This is a blog by our Communications and Campaigns Manager, Keeva Baxter. 


The Victims and Prisoners Bill is a long awaited piece of legislation, aiming to strengthen the rights of victims of crime. It is an opportunity to ensure that Restorative Justice is more widely available, with enforceable rights that people affected by crime can rely on. This blog will explore the recent developments with the Bill, including its debate in Parliament twice in December, and share what our next steps are to try and ensure that this once in a generation opportunity to strengthen victims’ rights to Restorative Justice is not missed. 

What happened in December?

The Victims Bill and the inclusion of Restorative Justice were debated in Parliament on both the 4th and the 18th of December.

We are delighted that Restorative Justice has been raised in Parliament, with endorsement from multiple Members, including the former Minister for Victims and Sentencing, the Rt Hon Edward Argar. 

On the 4th of December, the Bill went through the Report Stage of the House of Commons. Elliot Colburn MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice, raised the topic of RJ and acknowledged that the Rt Hon Edward Argar was not considering legislative changes around it. He did, however, ask for clarity on the non-legislative changes that the Government were willing to make to support access to RJ. 

The former Minister set out his intention to do the following: 

  • Ensure that the new commissioning guidance for Police and Crime Commissioners will include specific information on RJ services.
  • Consult on a new entitlement under the Victims’ Code for victims to be given information about RJ services at the point of sentence rather than the point of reporting. 

The former Minister stated that he hoped “that these additional measures will improve awareness and provision of Restorative Justice which I recognise can be extremely valuable for both victims and offenders”. 

We are disappointed that the former Minister did not endorse legislative change to support victims of crime to access Restorative Justice. We know that the Victims’ Code alone does not ensure that people affected by crime can access Restorative Justice, so by strengthening this right through law, many more victims of crime will hear about RJ and how it could help them. 

We are also concerned about the former Minister’s second suggestion, that information on RJ is given to victims at the point of sentence rather than reporting. Here at Why me?, we believe that a one time offer is not sufficient, and that people should be repeatedly given information about RJ so that they can choose whether they want to participate throughout their journey of recovery. We therefore hope that the Minister will reconsider this suggestion, ensuring that victims are given information at the point of sentence and reporting. 

On the 18th of December, Restorative Justice was raised in the House of Lords. Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, Lord Harries of Pentregarth and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede all stated support for Restorative Justice. Lord Harries remarked that “What matters is that restorative justice is available and known to be available right across the criminal justice system. I believe that this Bill offers us an opportunity to ensure that this is much more seriously and realistically the case than it is now.”

The response from Lord Bellamy, speaking for the Government, was as follows: “I gather that at Report stage in the Commons the Government gave an undertaking that restorative justice would form part of further guidance to the relevant authorities when commissioning various services. At the moment, that is as far as I can take the issue of restorative justice, important though it is.”

There are clear indications from the Government that they are supportive of Restorative Justice, despite resisting legislative change at the House of Commons report stage. We believe that there is a rising tide of interest in Restorative Justice among Members, who see it as a sensible solution to reducing crime and helping victims to recover. We therefore believe that there is still an opportunity for the Victims and Prisoners Bill to be amended to include the right to be referred to a Restorative Justice service. 

We also will continue to lobby for any further Government guidance ensuring that victims of crime are given information about Restorative Justice throughout their journey. In fact we want the entitlement to be that victims are informed at every stage of the Criminal Justice System.

What happens next?

The Bill is due to be debated on the 24th of January in the House of Lords. Prior to this debate, Lords can suggest amendments to the Bill to be considered. Why me? are on the Advisory Board for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice and are part of a Victims Law group with a number of other organisations. We will be working on a briefing and a proposed amendment in advance of this upcoming debate. We welcome other restorative and criminal justice organisations signing our briefing to demonstrate your support, please get in touch if you’re interested in doing so. 

What we need from you

If you have any contacts in the House of Lords, or know of any Lords who may be willing to speak to us about Restorative Justice, please let us know via

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