Case Study: Hate Crime Awareness Course (Restorative Justice)

This course offers the chance for people to understand and address hate crime related behaviour, while also offering the opportunity to engage in restorative justice. 

We spoke with Hampshire Service Delivery Manager, Laura Cairns, at Restorative Solutions, who told us about the delivery of their hate crime awareness course. 

Restorative Solution’s Hate Crime Awareness Course (HCAC) was the first course in the country designed to specifically target instances of hate crime and also to offer restorative justice in hate crime incidents. Prior to this, hate crime cases would be referred straight to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision, with little opportunity offered for perpetrators to understand their behaviour and work towards correcting it, nor for victims to engage in restorative justice. 

Background and eligibility

Between July 2018 and July 2019 the scheme was piloted in Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. In September 2020 the scheme was rolled out across the whole of Hampshire after the success of the pilot. The scheme operates as part of a Community Resolution out of court disposal, which can be issued by a police officer. 

The Community Resolution is issued with the condition that the individual in question attends the HCAC. However, certain criteria must be met before an individual is offered a Community Resolution for a hate crime incident. For example, no physical assault must have taken place during the incident and no person with extremist views will be offered the course. The majority of incidents committed by an individual which would fit the eligibility criteria for the course to be offered are usually categorised as public order offences or malicious communication offences.

Additionally, there must also be an admission of guilt from the perpetrator. Furthermore, it must be the perpetrator’s first hate crime offence for them to be eligible and critically, the victim must also agree to the perpetrator being offered the course. Laura told us that victims very often agreed to this, as they saw the course as being an opportunity for a perpetrator to develop a better understanding of what they had done and to change their behaviour moving forward.

HCAC framework 

Initially the victim is contacted and the nature of the course is explained to them. At this stage they are also offered restorative justice. During this initial contact with the victim they are asked whether they wish for any questions to be put to the perpetrator and whether they would like to receive any feedback.

They may accept or decline both the offer of being updated on the perpetrator’s progress and also their own involvement in restorative justice. The perpetrator may also decline restorative justice with no further repercussions as it is entirely voluntary for both parties. Any restorative justice between the two parties is scheduled after the completion of the HCAC. 

The HCAC consists of two questionnaires and six exercises. The session looks at what happened during an incident with the participant asked to describe and reflect on what they were feeling and thinking at the time. The participant is then invited to reflect on the impact of hate crime on the victim, those known to the victim, those who witnessed the event, as well as the impact on themselves. Following this, the course encourages the participant to consider how they could have behaved differently during the incident, and crucially, how they can behave differently in the future to prevent further victims of hate crime. 

Learning and change

Feedback from participants of the HCAC has been overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority of participants stating that their understandings around what constitutes a hate crime have improved. Crucially, participants have expressed a deeper understanding of the impact their actions have had on victims and that through better understanding and newly developed skills they are significantly less likely to commit further offences.

Growth and funding 

Restorative Solutions, also has contracts to deliver the course in Dorset, Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire. The scheme runs in the same way in these areas as it does within Hampshire. Funding for the schemes filters down from the MoJ to the Police and Crime Commissioners, who put contracts out to tender to run restorative justice programmes in their regions. This is something they must do in accordance with the Victims Code.  

For more information on the Hate Crime Awareness Course, contact Laura Cairns at lauracairns@restorativesolutions.org.uk or Tony Walker at TonyWalker@restorativesolutions.org.uk

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What people say about Restorative Solutions

I'm so glad I am working with RJ. I don't know who would listen to me if it wasn’t for you.
A Person Harmed by Crime
RJ is very underrated and I certainly think we should be using it more.
A Professional who Referred Someone into our Service
Very satisfied – it’s been a great service. A worthwhile process for me and I hope for the offenders. Staff have been great and I would like to thank them.
A victim
It was the right thing to do. Both victims told me to let go of what happened. I didn't want to hear it but they both forgave me and said I should move on. I have taken that on and thought about it and I have come to terms with what happened. You've helped me significantly. It's as though my head has been lifted of a gigantic weight.
An Offender
Thanks for your time today. I feel like you understand R so well, I really hope you can help him to learn how to be happy.
Feedback from a family in East Kent
Restorative Justice offers a unique opportunity for victims and survivors to move on from and overcome the trauma that can be left with them after experiencing crime. I am exceedingly proud of the work that the team at Restorative Solutions do in supporting our community. We should always consider the needs of victims of crime and this service exemplifies that sentiment and allows so many to put behind them what can be the worst experience of their lives.
Marc Jones, Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

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