Restorative Justice for Out of Court Disposals – a rapid review

This project Restorative Justice for Out of Court Disposals – a rapid review seeks to increase and improve the use of Restorative Justice in Out Of Court Disposals (OOCDs). 

Covid-19 has caused significant court backlogs, the diversion of resources to front-line services and pressures on funding. This has happened when prisons are already at capacity and the probation service is going through a period of major change. This context means that the appropriate use of Out Of Court Disposals are particularly important, and may be one way to address the backlog.

This project seeks to ensure that Restorative Justice services are being used effectively in Out Of Court Disposals (OOCDs), conducting a rapid review of how it is being implemented. Restorative Justice empowers people harmed by crime to communicate with the person responsible. This gives them the chance to talk about the impact of the incident, seek answers about why it happened and have their voices heard. It can also help perpetrators to see the real impact of their actions, and change their behaviour. 

An OOCD deals with people who have committed crime in ways other than prosecution through court. OOCDs can take many different forms, such as  a simple caution, a conditional caution, a penalty notice or a community resolution. Restorative Justice can be used alongside any of these options. 

At the moment however, there are different OOCDs being used differently across Police Force areas. The National Police Council tried to rectify this in 2017, publishing a national strategy aimed at unifying OOCD frameworks. However, an audit undertaken in 2020 showed only 15 of the 42 Police Force areas have implemented this new approach as it is not a requirement by law. 

The expectation is that the remaining areas will now await the outcome of Government reforms to sentencing law, which is outlined in the Government White Paper: A Smarter Approach to Sentencing, published in September 2020.

In light of these impending changes, Why me? are conducting a rapid review of the use of Restorative Justice for OOCDs. This will involve consulting with different Police Force areas about their approaches, liaising with other criminal justice charities to organise national conversations about RJ for OOCDs and building up case work.

We hope that this work will increase the use of Restorative Justice for OOCDs in the long term, alleviating pressures on the court system and ensuring a more effective, problem-solving approach to addressing the harm caused by crime. 

This project has been generously funded by the Rank Foundation and commenced in December 2020. We will report our progress at the end of March 2021.

The project manager can be contacted directly – trevor.watson@why-me.org if you have any contribution to this work.

© 2021 Why me? Charity no. 1137123. Company no. 6992709.

To find out more about our Restorative service and policy work during COVID-19,please click here