Becoming a victim of crime is often a traumatic experience. Many victims feel that their life has been turned upside down, and what was once normal and familiar no longer feels safe. Whilst the criminal justice process deals with the offence, it can sometimes leave those harmed feeling out of control and in need of answers that simply cannot be provided during the formal process.
Restorative justice can change this.
Restorative justice brings together people harmed by crime or conflict with those responsible for the harm, to find a positive way forward. It enables victims to meet or communicate with their offender to explain the full impact on them of the crime which they have experienced and to ask questions important to them. It helps to repair the damage caused by the crime, often by showing the victim the reality of who the offender is, but it puts the needs of the victim first. When a crime has taken place, restorative justice can be used to give the victim, offender and, occasionally, members of the community the chance to come together and discuss how the harm can be rectified.
The process not only gives victims a voice and helps them gain closure on their cases by explaining to offenders the impact of their actions; it also encourages offenders to take responsibility for their behaviour. The long-term goal of restorative justice is to reduce crime. Research shows offenders who take part in restorative justice with their victims are less likely to reoffend.
When is it used?
Restorative Justice can only be used when the offender accepts responsibility for the crime and the victim agrees to a restorative approach. Restorative Justice can be used at any stage of the criminal justice system and can be delivered across all offences. Victim participation is always voluntary, based entirely on the victim’s informed choice and delivered at a pace to suit the individual. Restorative justice is not a soft option – for many offenders, facing up to their actions is very difficult.