The 5 ‘R’s of Restorative Justice: Are They Always Applicable?

Restorative Justice has been around in one way or another for centuries. But Restorative Justice as we know it today is a relatively new practice, starting out in its modernised form in the 1970s. There are 5 long-standing principles of Restorative Justice/restorative practice:

  • Relationship

  • Respect

  • Responsibility

  • Repair

  • Reintegration

Relationship: The principle here is that, if ever there is a need for Restorative Justice, it’s because a relationship has been harmed in some way. The aim is to help repair this harm, giving the harmer a safe space to take responsibility and make amends.

Respect: This principle refers to how respect allows for a safe experience for everyone involved in the Restorative Justice process. In this case, respect involves listening to the other person’s perspective, whether we agree with it, and behaving in a way that allows the Restorative Justice process to play out safely for everyone.

Responsibility: The Responsibility principle refers to how the harmer and the harmed must take responsibility for their part in the harm if there is any. Each party must be honest with themselves and look deeply to see if they did have a part in the incident, even if they were the harmed person.

Repair: The Repair principle refers to how the harmer is supposed to repair as much harm as they can, whilst still acknowledging that it may not all be able to be repaired. The repair carried out by the harmer should be able to resolve feelings of anger and revenge from the harmed and help the harmer to regain feelings of respect for both themselves and others.  

Reintegration: The final principle, Reintegration, refers to how the community should allow the harmer to accept their part in the harm and reintegrate back into that community with trust. 

As the use of Restorative Justice brilliantly gathers more momentum, we have to ask ourselves if the 5 ‘R’s are really necessary for the basis of all Restorative Justice cases. In extreme cases of harm, perhaps only Responsibility is the only ‘R’ that matters.

When we see examples of abuse, killings, and other heinous acts - as we do frequently in our work, see our case studies - relationship, respect, reintegration, and even repair, can go out of the window, and the only thing that matters to the harmed is that the harmer takes responsibility and answers any questions they have. Can we ethically have the expectation that, for example, an abused person must allow their abuser to attempt to rebuild a relationship with them? 

Perhaps less of a focus should be put on these principles and we should focus on what is most important for the harmed, and also the harmer.

An example of Restorative Justice in action without all 5 ‘R’s being met doesn’t mean it’s an unsuccessful process - and no less successful than a Restorative Justice conference with satisfied participants. The success should lie in how the harmer and the harmer feel after the process is finished.

If a harmer comes out of a conference fully understanding the impact of their crime and never wanting to commit an offence to harm someone again, that’s a huge achievement. And if a victim finishes a conference feeling that they’ve had answers to the questions they asked and feel, that again is a huge success.

Of course, the 5 ‘R’s of Restorative Justice/restorative practice are an excellent foundation for understanding the aims of the process. But as a people-first approach, the objectives and success of a Restorative Justice conference must be based on the needs and wants of the people themselves instead of a 5-step process.

Discover more about the research surrounding Restorative Justice, and why we offer this service.

To find out more about Restorative Justice, browse our frequently asked questions, or learn more about our work in the area of Restorative Justice.

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What people say about Restorative Solutions

I'm so glad I am working with Restorative Justice. I don't know who would listen to me if it wasn’t for you.
A Person Harmed by Crime
Restorative Justice 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.

Case Studies

A Creeper Burglary: Restorative Justice Case Study

This was a case of an overnight “creeper” burglary in a residential area where the harmer had gained access through an u...

A Non-Recent Child Sexual Abuse: Restorative Justice Case Study

The victim in this non-recent child sexual abuse case was a 56-year-old woman called Lisa. Her father sexually abused he...

A Robbery: Restorative Justice Case Study

This Restorative Justice case saw Jamie and Ruth openly communicate in a face-to-face conference. Years before, Jamie at...

A Manslaughter: Restorative Justice Case Study

We received a referral from a Victim Liaison Officer who was working on a manslaughter case. The grandmother advised the...

A Workplace Assault: Restorative Justice Case Study

Nick worked at a clothing shop. When he noticed Glenn, a customer, shoplifting, Nick stepped in to challenge him. The po...

An Attempted Burglary: Restorative Justice Case Study

When Joanne and her husband had just gone to bed, they heard a really loud bang downstairs. They immediately thought som...

Death by Drug Overdose: A Restorative Justice Case Study

A young woman passed away after she was supplied Class A drugs. The person who supplied these drugs was convicted and se...

Firearms Offence: A Restorative Justice Case Study

The offender in this case had been suffering with issues affecting his mental health which he tried to manage with alcoh...

Fraud: A Restorative Justice Case Study

The offender defrauded a woman he was in an intimate relationship with, stealing over £50,000 over a course of months. T...

Harmful Sexual Behaviour: A Restorative Justice Case Study

The offender had sexually abused her young daughter, taking inappropriate photographs that were distributed to a third p...

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