10 ways that Police & Crime Commissioners can unlock the power of Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice can transform the recovery of victims of crime, and enable perpetrators to appreciate the harm they have caused and change their behaviour.

But not enough people affected by crime have the opportunity to consider Restorative Justice. 

There are so many ways that Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) can help to unlock this opportunity for people in their area. We know that many PCCs appreciate the power of Restorative Justice, but don’t always understand the barriers on the ground which prevent its wider usage.

Why me? has a decade of experience of working with restorative providers, police forces and Police & Crime Commissioners to help them expand the use of Restorative Justice. We have seen the barriers on the ground which prevent Restorative Justice from becoming commonplace, despite often being supported by leadership in theory.

Here are 10 ways that Police & Crime Commissioners can help to unlock these barriers, and expand the use of Restorative Justice in their area.

1) #SignTheRJPledge

Why me?’s campaign calling on candidates in the 2021 Police & Crime Commissioner election to pledge their support for Restorative Justice was a great success. 44 candidates signed up, many of whom are now Police & Crime Commissioners.

By signing the RJ pledge, PCCs can show their support for Restorative Justice, and their determination to ensure that everyone affected by crime in their area has the opportunity to be referred to a restorative provider.

Police & Crime Commissioners can still sign the pledge to demonstrate leadership on the issue. Simply email info@why-me.org stating that you want to #SignTheRJPledge.

2) Support the local restorative provider to become a Registered Service Provider

Every police area has a PCC-funded restorative provider who is contracted to deliver Restorative Justice in that area. 

It is important that these services are supported to become a Registered Service Provider through the Restorative Justice Council’s accreditation system. This ensures that the provider is committed and able to deliver high quality restorative practice to agreed national standards, ensuring the best service for victims of crime in the area.

3) A Restorative Justice strategy should prioritise availability for all victims

Restorative Justice doesn’t happen by accident. Every policing area should have a plan to ensure that staff are aware of their obligations regarding Restorative Justice, that progress is monitored, and that access to Restorative Justice is widened. This strategy should emphasise that every victim of crime should be informed about Restorative Justice, regardless of the type of crime they were affected by or the status of their case. Restorative providers can be flexible with the sorts of interventions they can offer, and even an initial conversation between the person affected and a restorative practitioner can make a real difference. Every victim of crime is entitled to information about RJ under the Victims’ Code, and codifying this in a Restorative Justice strategy can help to embed this principle throughout a police area.

If you want to know more about what a Restorative Justice strategy could look like in your area, email info@why-me.org .

4) Ensure proper data collection on Restorative Justice

When referrals to the restorative provider are measured and recorded, it is far easier to understand where barriers exist and how they can be broken down. Perhaps referrals are coming from some parts of the system but not from others? Perhaps victims of certain crimes are being referred but others aren’t? If no one records and analyses data about Restorative Justice, then these problems can’t be understood or addressed.

The Ministry of Justice already asks for data to be submitted about Restorative Justice, and it’s important that the person submitting this information is supported to ensure that it is accurate and robust. The police area should also keep records of who is being referred to the restorative provider, which team is making these referrals and what the outcomes are. Through monitoring and evaluating this data, it will become clear where barriers need to be unlocked.

To understand the existing data on Restorative Justice and its limitations, read Why me?’s latest Valuing Victims’ report.

If you want support to understand how best to monitor and evaluate data regarding Restorative Justice, email info@why-me.org .

5) Ringfence budget for Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice is a cost-effective way of addressing the harm of crime. Ministry of Justice research shows that, for every £1 invested in Restorative Justice, £9 are saved for the justice system.

However, steady investment is needed to deliver these benefits, and police areas which properly fund Restorative Justice will be most able to deliver the benefits for victims of crime, perpetrators and the wider justice system. 

Spending on Restorative Justice is currently included in part of the PCC’s budget for victim services. By ring fencing part of this budget for Restorative Justice, PCCs can give security to the Restorative Justice offer in the area, and providers to reach out to more people affected by crime.

6) Regular Restorative Justice training for all staff

Police areas which thrive at supporting members of the public affected by crime with Restorative Justice often have a culture of working restoratively which runs through the organisation. This is because Restorative Justice needs to be understood by all staff who work with victims of crime and perpetrators, not just those working in restorative providers. 

One of the best ways to boost referrals to Restorative Justice is to ensure that the staff who need to make those referrals understand the power and scope of Restorative Justice, feel comfortable discussing it with service users, and don’t hold misconceptions about the sorts of case which it is or is not appropriate for. 

Ensuring that Restorative Justice is a core part of all staff inductions, and that this knowledge is regularly monitored and updated, is an important way of widening access for people affected by crime.

7) Implement a Restorative Justice communications plan

The vast majority of people affected by crime never hear about Restorative Justice. If Police & Crime Commissioners use their office and public profile to promote it as something which could be available – in some form – to anyone affected by crime, this would help to inform more members of the public about the potential benefits of RJ, and increase referrals to the local restorative provider.

Strong communications about Restorative Justice from the Police & Crime Commissioner’s office can also raise the profile of restorative providers among police and victim support staff, and demonstrate the value of their work internally.

There is momentum behind improving communications about Restorative Justice, and an All Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice has formed to champion restorative work in Parliament.

8) Test processes through ‘dip sampling’ cases

The Victims’ Code entitles every victim of crime to be informed about Restorative Justice and how to be referred to their restorative provider. But most members of the public who are affected by crime never receive this information. It is the duty of the Police & Crime Commissioner and others to ensure that victims’ rights are being met.

One good way of doing this is to test existing processes through ‘dip sampling’ cases. This means doing random checks of different types of cases to see whether Restorative Justice was raised as an option. By doing such checks, you can understand which parts of the system are not making referrals where they should and give targeted support to improve this. You can also test whether Restorative Justice is being considered for more complex cases, such as hate crime and sexual or domestic abuse.

9) Ensure that Community Remedy involves Restorative Justice 

The Community Remedy was brought in through the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2014. It is a list of appropriate actions that can be used by local police in response to low level crime and anti-social behaviour, and is drawn up in consultation with the community.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill puts renewed emphasis on the Community Remedy as the tool to decide the most appropriate form of Out of Court Disposal. Restorative Justice can be extremely effective for all parties in such circumstances, and Police & Crime Commissioners should ensure that restorative practice is referenced as something which the community can consider as a disposal option. 

More information about how to utilise Restorative Justice as part of an Out of Court Disposal is in our Out of Court Disposal and Restorative Justice Good Practice Guide.

10) Observe a Restorative Justice process

Nothing opens your eyes to the power of Restorative Justice like watching the process yourself. From the thorough preparation with both parties in advance, to the facilitated communication between the people affected, the process is unique in its ability to repair harm and allow the people affected to move forward.

If you are a Police & Crime Commissioner who is interested in Restorative Justice, why not contact your local restorative provider to see if you can observe a restorative process? The availability of this will depend on the circumstances of a particular case, but any observation of the process in action will be the best way to truly appreciate the benefits that restorative practice can bring.

 

To get in touch about any of the above points, ask questions, or get further information about how PCCs can help to improve the use of Restorative Justice, get in touch with us on info@why-me.org

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