Restorative justice is the process of bringing those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication. It encourages everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward. This is part of a wider field called restorative practice.
Restorative practice can be used anywhere to prevent conflict, build relationships and repair harm by allowing people to communicate effectively and positively. It is increasingly used in schools, children’s services, workplaces, hospitals, communities and the criminal justice system. Restorative practice can involve both a proactive approach to preventing harm and conflict, as well as activities that repair harm where a crime has already been committed.
If a crime has been committed, a facilitated restorative meeting can be held. This allows individuals and groups to work together to improve their mutual understanding of an issue and jointly reach the best available solution. However, in many cases a less formal approach, based on restorative principles, may be more appropriate.
Restorative practice can be very effective because:
- It supports people to recognise that their activities affect others
- It shows how people are responsible for their choices and actions and can be held accountable for them
- It allows people to reflect on how they interact with each other and consider how they can prevent harm and conflict
Restorative justice within Devon Youth Justice Service
Devon Youth Justice Service (YJS) encourages young people to take responsibility for the harm and loss they have caused their victim and then consider and agree on ways to make amends. This is achieved by working with victims and listening to their views about how the young person can repair the harm they have caused. This might be through passing information through the YJS or may involve a face-to-face meeting. This can be challenging to arrange and difficult for those involved, however, the outcomes are often very positive.
There are three aspects to restorative justice:
- Responsibility – this is where we make sure that the young person has gained a good understanding of all of the harm they have caused and that they accept responsibility. We use a variety of methods to do this through ‘victim liaison’ (see below)
- Reparation – the exploration of what needs to happen to make the victim feel better about what has happened. It may be a letter, verbal response, physical reparation or through the completion of voluntary work. This could be direct to the victim or to the wider community but is always agreed with the victims’ needs in mind.
- Re-integration – making sure that everyone involved is in a position to put the matter behind them and start to move on, while recognising the value and role that they have within their community.
Victims of crimes committed by young people are contacted and offered support by the YJS. The YJS informs them of the different restorative justice processes that are available and offers them the opportunity to participate through a variety of options.
The victim has free choice whether to become involved in any restorative justice process, and the YJS will continue to support the victim throughout the time of their involvement. Regardless of their level of involvement most of the victims that we work with find that their experiences have helped them to move on from the offence and harm caused and towards recovery. It has also proven to be an effective method to challenge and change the behaviour of the young people we work with.
Code of practice for victims of crime
This code of practice for victims of crime forms a key part of the wider government strategy to transform the criminal justice system by putting victims first.
Restorative Services Quality Mark
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