The Restorative Justice Process
Restorative Justice does not happen overnight. Here are the steps which traditionally take place in a restorative process.
1. Deciding you want Restorative Justice
Either the victim of crime or the perpetrator can ask for Restorative Justice. If a case is going through court, a restorative process won’t be able to progress until after this process has concluded. Otherwise, it can happen at any time.
The person harmed by the incident should be informed about Restorative Justice by the police, victim services, the youth offending team or another point of contact. They may then be offered Restorative Justice by the Restorative Justice service operating in their area. Alternatively, they can get in touch with Why me?, who may be able to facilitate their case.
2. First steps
The first step of a restorative process is to have an initial meeting with a restorative practitioner. This allows the harmed person to talk about the impact of the crime, what they are thinking and feeling now, and what they want to happen next.
Both parties need to consent for Restorative Justice to take place, so the facilitator will also be in touch with the perpetrator to ask if they wanted to take part.
If both parties agree to take part in Restorative Justice, the facilitator will prepare them for a meeting (often known as a Restorative Justice conference). The facilitator meets with both parties separately to discuss what they may want to say to each other, and what their feelings are about the incident now.
These meetings will continue until participants are fully prepared for the Restorative Justice conference. If the facilitator is satisfied that it is safe for the meeting to go ahead, and that both the victim and perpetrator are ready to proceed, they will arrange a date for the conference.
4. The meeting
The Restorative Justice conference is a meeting between the person who was harmed and the perpetrator, along with two trained Restorative Justice facilitators. Both parties can also have supporters present, such as a friend who was also affected by the crime, or a support worker.
All of those present sit in a circle, with the facilitator sat between the victim of crime and the perpetrator.
The lead facilitator starts by setting the ground rules, which include no interrupting, and anyone being able to take a break or stop the process at any time. The facilitator will then ask the person who committed the crime questions such as: “can you tell me what happened?”, “how did you feel at the time?” and “who was affected by the incident?”
The facilitator then asks similar questions to the person affected by the crime, and to the other people in the room. This will help to facilitate a dialogue about the incident and the impact that it had. If appropriate, the facilitator will help the participants to produce an outcome agreement. This lays out what steps the perpetrator could take to put things right, or address the harm they have caused.
As always in a restorative process, everything in the outcome agreement will need to be agreed by both parties.
In the days following the conference, the facilitator will speak to both parties to see how they feel, and check that they got what they wanted out of the process.
6. Other ways to do Restorative Justice
The greatest potential benefit is often gained from a face to face meeting. But if this is not practical or desirable to one party, other restorative conversations may still be able to take place. The two parties may exchange restorative letters, or send messages by video shuttle. Restorative Justice can sometimes take place with a proxy in place of the victim or offender, if one person does not want to take part. Restorative Justice can be flexible to fit the needs of the people participating.