Restorative Justice: How Does It Work?


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What is it?

Restorative Justice, or RJ as it is often referred to is a way of punishing people who have committed and admitted crime as a direct alternative to a conviction. However it can also be used alongside a sentence where a person has pleaded guilty or been convicted by a court.

What happens?

In some cases, RJ gives the victim of crime an opportunity to connect with an offender, either in person at a meeting or in writing, in order to help them understand the impact of the crime and provides the offender with the chance to make amends and apologise for their actions. In other cases the offender may be asked to make amends to the community rather than a victim directly. For example, an offender accused of criminal damage by painting graffiti may be required to clean off the graffiti in order of locations.

The meetings or communication between the victim of crime and the offender will always take place in a controlled environment. If the meeting is face to face, for example, a facilitator will be present, this could be a police officer or a probation officer or social worker for example. The purpose of the meeting would be to centre and to give the offender an opportunity to understand the harm caused and ways to repair that harm.

When is RJ to be used?

Firstly restorative justice involving the victim would only ever be used if the victim wasn’t happy to take part or where the offender does not admit the offence.

Following being recently assaulted in a homophobic attack, the former Wales rugby captain, Gareth Thomas chose to deal with his complaint in this way after he was the victim of and, as reported here, received an apology from the offender.

Mr Thomas said he thought that the offender could learn more through RJ than any other way.

RJ can also be used when an offender has received a prison sentence. Recently, in Bolton the victim of an unprovoked assault, Cathryn Walmsley read a Victim Impact Statement to the court setting out how the attack by a 17 year old boy had affected her. She also said that she would like to sit down with the offender to discuss what he did, she believes that this may give her “closure”. It may also assist the offender, and it is hoped in these circumstances that it would reduce the likelihood of any future offending. His Honour Judge Saville sent the boy to a young offenders institute for 4 years.

Does Restorative Justice Work?

Research undertaken by the government in a seven-year period found that there was an 85% victim satisfaction rate so yes it does seem to work from a victim’s perspective.

How can Burton Copeland help?

Everybody who is interviewed by the police under caution is entitled to free and independent advice, this could be at the police station or at some other location such as your home or in the back of a police car. It is important that you obtain legal advice and we can advise you whether RJ would be an appropriate disposal in your case and make representations on your behalf for your case to be dealt with in that way.

To read more about how important it is to seek legal advice when spoken to by police and why you should receive advice or to see five reasons why clients wrongly decide to be interviewed with legal advice here. Or read here why a friendly chat with the police can often turn into something much more sinister.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact us here