Although the development of mediated responses to conflict can be traced back several decades in modern times; it is within the past twenty -- five years that Restorative Justice has gained momentum as an innovative approach in criminal justice that aims to give victims a greater role in the justice process, as well as to cut reoffending.

To understand why, we only have to look at the current system. Home Office research tells us that less than a third of recent crime victims feel that the criminal justice system meets their needs. Comparing recorded crime with the findings of the British Crime Survey suggests that up to 75% of crime is not reported. Only 326,000 offenders were sentenced at Crown or Magistrates Court in 2000, although 5.2 million crimes were recorded. The whole system has been estimated to cost up to £60 billion a year, £12 billions of which is just the processing cost. And ultimately it doesn’t work – 58% of all discharged prisoners are reconvicted within two years of release whilst significant proportions of the population report being fairly or very worried about crime.

In recent years, Restorative Justice has developed alongside wider reforms to the youth justice system in England and Wales introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act. RJ is central to the new approach to youth justice, integral to the delivery of reprimands and final warnings to young people, and forms a key aspect of the referral orders designed for those youngsters appearing in court for the first time. In Scotland, we have the Children’s Hearings system initiated by the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, now incorporated in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. This contains significant restorative aspects (for example Police Restorative Warnings). In Northern Ireland, we now have the Youth Justice Agency, which is a restorative justice model based on the family group conferencing model from New Zealand.

Research into the use of RJ amongst adult offenders, including those serving prison sentences for more serious offences, has demonstrated significant reductions in the rate of re-offending, improvements in the overall satisfaction of victims, and increased confidence in the Criminal Justice System. 

Indeed, there is already some evidence to suggest that, the more serious the offence, the greater the capacity for RJ to make a difference both for victim and offender.

But RJ is not just for use in the criminal justice system. Dealing with anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood disputes, combating disruptive behaviour in schools and care homes, improving prison regimes, and resolving workplace grievances and disciplinary matters – these are just a few examples of areas where a variety of agencies are increasingly co-operating to find a solution and where Restorative Justice has been shown to be effective.

Critics of RJ have argued that it is a ‘soft option’, or that it fails to respect participants’ human rights. On the first charge, there is really no comparison between a restorative meeting in which a wrongdoer takes full, direct, and personal responsibility for their actions, and a formal hearing at which they may be present but are barely involved, and which revolves entirely around mitigation and the ‘laying-off’ of responsibility. Indeed, some offenders offered RJ have been known to opt for traditional court action and its consequences because, of the two options, it is the court which they view as softer.

On the second count it is perhaps true that, if not properly managed, there are risks with RJ around issues such as the right to a defence and potential revictimization. Such risks exist though in conventional judicial processes. Human rights moreover lie at the very heart of Restorative Justice and such potential pitfalls are not an argument not to practise RJ, rather to make sure it is practised effectively based on the fundamental values of voluntary participation and informed consent.

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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.

Case Studies

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...

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...

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 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 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 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...

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