Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner, has launched the 2022 Victims’ Survey. The survey should only take around...
Restorative Justice: An RJ Interview With Tony Walker
Tony Walker is the Director of Service Delivery at Restorative Solutions and has been using restorative approaches for over 20 years. Formerly an Inspector in the Thames Valley Police, Tony has many years of experience in RJ, from community problem solving to police complaints.
Tony practices as an RJ facilitator, focussing on serious incidents and staff grievances. We spent some time with him to find out how far RJ has come since he began in the field, what the training process is like, and what advice he would give to you if you’re considering using RJ.
What was Restorative Justice like when you first began using restorative approaches over 20 years ago?
Fairly non-existent, fairly new, nobody knew what it was or understood the concept. It has been used for decades before that; repairing harm has been around for millennia but bringing it into the criminal justice system is fairly new.
What has been the biggest change you’ve seen since?
It [RJ] has been recognised far more as a really positive way of repairing serious harm where it previously wasn't considered, like with murders and sexual offences. It’s now much more mainstream.
When and why did you first hear about Restorative Justice?
In Thames Valley Police in the mid/late 1990s. Charles Pollard introduced RJ into cautions for young offenders.
What was the restorative approaches training process like for you? What is the RJ training process like now?
It was a 5 day practitioner training course. Now it’s much more developmental and incremental. I used to be a trainer in the police and then got involved in RJ.
We have a basic training course and we have training in specific arenas, such as hate crime. With the increase of use in serious offences, we have developed a training course in serious sexual offences and have specialists in serious in sexual abuse. These are fit for purpose for practitioners and safeguarding participants in paramount.
In which areas would you like to see RJ being used more?
My answer is always going to be everywhere. What I would love to see is people being more accepting of us using it [RJ]. This could be in anything from serious criminal offences to staff conflicts in the workplace and complaints procedures.
What do you think is the main misconception out there about RJ?
It’s still seen as an easy option, a soft approach, and letting people off. However, it actually challenges perpetrators and harmers in a way that our current systems don’t and provides victims with an opportunity to get their questions answered.
In terms of any crime, people say ‘lock them up forever’. But, if you ask what do you want to see happen to them [the offenders] when they get out, for example, what do you want them to be be like, you need the systems to change their behaviour. This process [RJ] compels and requires the perpetrator to speak.
In which areas do you think Restorative Justice is underused?
It’s underused full stop. It’s a service that people love, but it suffers from people not referring.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of taking part in RJ as a victim?
Have the conversation. Discuss it with a practitioner and think about it. You don’t have to decide today. Ask for some information and go away to think. Ask for an explanation, discuss what it is and what it can do for you.
To find out more about how RJ can help you or how you can help others through RJ, take a look through our website.