Restorative Justice for Out of Court Disposals – a rapid review

This project 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  impact of their actions, and change their behaviour. 


What did we do?

  • Why me? responded to The Government’s proposals and what it means for Restorative Justice, which can be accessed here : Why me?’s response to new sentencing proposals.
  • Why me? conducted a rapid review of the use of Restorative Justice for OOCDs. This involved 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.
  • With court backlogs at critical levels due to Covid-19, we have created a Good-Practice-Guide looking at how different PCC areas are using Restorative Justice for Out of Court Disposals to help alleviate some of this pressure.
  • On March 3rd 2021, we ran a National Conversation event discussing Out of Court Disposals, new sentencing proposals and Restorative Justice. Key speakers included: Penelope Gibbs – Transform Justice, Phil Bowen – Centre of Justice Innovation and George Barrow & Rob Goodrum-Ward – Ministry of Justice. To watch a full recording of the event, click on the link below.


Why did we do it?

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 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.

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.


Why Me?’s Good Practice Guide 


Project Interviews and Insights


National Conversation Event recording


Restorative Justice – An important tool in the Government’s “Smarter Approach to Sentencing” 


The project manager can be contacted directly at if you have any contribution to this work.

This project has been generously funded by the Rank Foundation.

© 2024 Why me? Charity no. 1137123. Company no. 6992709.