Restorative Justice project gets boost

Expansion for scheme aimed at bringing offenders face to face with victims

The Police Commissioner for the West Midlands is to receive half-a-million pounds from the government to expand police use of Restorative Justice across Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull and the Black Country. The announcement was made by the Ministry of Justice this afternoon and has been welcomed by the force and by Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones.

Restorative Justice can describe a wide-range of activities but in the West Midlands the focus is on face-to-face meetings between victims and offenders, known as conferences. This new approach to justice, which sits alongside the court process, has been up and running in Birmingham since May 2012 and has received rave reviews from both victims and offenders alike. In January, the force announced plans to roll-out the scheme across the rest of the West Midlands; a project which is currently ongoing and which will be given a considerable boost following today’s announcement. Sergeant

Tom Joyce, from force’s Central Justice Services, said: “While the courts play the most integral role in the criminal justice process, they do not always allow victims the opportunity to ask questions of the offender who caused them harm, nor do victims get the opportunity to tell the offender directly how the offence has affected them. In turn, this means offenders often face punishment for crimes without ever understanding the deeply personal impact of their actions. Evidence shows that understanding the impact of their crimes on victims through Restorative Justice can have a significant impact on whether or not a person re-offends.

“Because Restorative Justice has been proven to be effective in terms of victim satisfaction and reducing reoffending, we have invested in training officers to deliver Restorative Justice in a wide variety of settings. It can be used as a resolution to low level crime and anti-social behaviour and for more serious crimes, as an addition to the existing court process.”

More than 200 conferences have been completed in a variety of different contexts over the last two years with a study showing that over 91 per cent of victims who took part were satisfied with the outcome. Bob Jones said: “Restorative justice, if done correctly, is very effective both in supporting the victim and preventing reoffending by the perpetrators of crimes. Most victims’ top priority is to prevent other people from becoming victims themselves and restorative justice has an important part to play in this strategy.

“Whilst I am 100 per cent committed to the use of restorative justice in the West Midlands I would have appreciated greater notice to allow it to be used most effectively. I apologise to partner organisations because we will not be able to consult as fully as we would have liked. We will do our best, however, to engage as fully as possible so that the money can be spent in the best way, putting the interests of our communities at the forefront.”