Restorative justice Contents


The Committee’s inquiry

1.On 6 November 2015 we announced an inquiry into restorative justice, inviting views on the use or potential use of restorative justice in the criminal justice system, in particular on thefollowing points:

In the course of this inquiry we received 52 pieces of written evidence and held three oral evidence sessions, hearing from 17 people. We also held an informal discussion with some RJ providers and stakeholders. We are grateful to all those who gave oral and written evidence to our inquiry.

2.In this chapter we broadly set out the landscape of restorative justice. In the next chapter we consider the evidence base for the claim that restorative justice is a useful intervention. In chapter 3 we consider the practical effectiveness of current restorative justice provision, particularly by reference to progress made against the Ministry of Justice’s Action Plan. In chapter 4 we consider whether the entitlements relating to restorative justice under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (hereafter “the Victims’ Code”) should be modified and what rights should be provided to victims under the proposed Victims’ Law.

What is restorative justice?

3.The Ministry of Justice defines restorative justice as “the process that brings those harmed by crime, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.” It further states that the fundamental element of restorative justice is a dialogue between the victim and offender.1 Restorative Justice can provide victims an opportunity to be heard, have input in the resolution of an offence and achieve closure. It provides offenders the chance to face the consequences of their offending and in some cases make amends.2

4.Restorative justice can take place at any part of the criminal justice system, from being part of an out of court disposal, through to taking place while an offender is serving a custodial sentence. In 2012 and 2013, the Ministry of Justice published annual restorative justice action plans. The most recent Action Plan was published in November 2014, covering the period to March 2018.3 It explains the Ministry of Justice’s vision is for “good quality, victim-focused restorative justice (RJ) to be available at all stages of the criminal justice system (CJS) in England and Wales.” To measure success in reaching this vision, the Action Plan provides three broad objectives:

(1) Equal access: to ensure RJ is available to victims at all stages of the CJS irrespective of: whether the offender in the case is an adult or a young person; where in England and Wales the victim lives; and the offence committed against the victim.

(2)Awareness and understanding: to raise awareness of RJ and its potential benefits and ensure a consistent understanding of what RJ entails and its place in the CJS (messages to reach key target groups including victims, offenders, criminal justice policy developers, leaders and practitioners, the media and the general public); and to work with PCCs, NPS, YJB and prisons to ensure that local mechanisms are in place so that victims and offenders know how to access RJ and can make informed decisions about participating in RJ.

(3)Good Quality: to ensure RJ is safe, competent (in line with the EU directive on victims’ rights), focused on the needs of the victim and delivered by a facilitator trained to recognised standards so that it only takes place where an assessment by the facilitator indicates that this would be an appropriate course of action for all relevant parties.

The Government is currently preparing a progress report to the Action Plan for publication.4

5.According to the Ministry, restorative justice can be delivered in many ways, including:

The landscape of restorative justice

6.Restorative justice can be initiated by either victims or offenders. Victim-initiated restorative justice is primarily provided by Police and Crime Commissioners, or third sector organisations. Offenders can access restorative justice through organisations including the National Probation Service, prisons and Community Rehabilitation Companies. In the youth system, restorative justice is primarily provided by Youth Offending Teams.

Recent developments in the restorative justice landscape

7.There have been a number of recent Government initiatives aimed at increasing the availability of restorative justice services. On 19 November 2013 the Coalition Government announced it would be making at least £29 million available, over the following three years, to Police and Crime Commissioners and charities to help deliver restorative justice services to victims.6 While the funding provided to PCCs was earmarked for restorative justice, it was part of a wider pot to provide victims services and was not ring-fenced, so that, in the Ministry’s words, PCC’s “can make decisions about the services that best meet local need.”7 The Ministry provided a breakdown of the funding provided to Police and Crime Commissioner per annum, which is allocated on a population based formula.8 Similarly the Ministry has also provided funding to the Youth Justice Board to build and maintain capacity to provide restorative justice services in Youth Offending Teams. Between 2011 and 2016 the Youth Justice Board has distributed around £3.5million of Ministry of Justice funding to Youth Offending Teams. Initial funding was used to train staff as trainers in Restorative Justice Conference Facilitation before cascading such training to referral order panel members.9

8.Between 2011 and 2014, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) embarked on a restorative justice capacity building programme. This programme sought to increase awareness and build capacity to deliver restorative justice conferencing in both prisons and probation.10 NOMS provided a grant of £0.5 million to Restorative Solutions CIC,11 match-funded by the Monument Trust. Thames Valley Partnership12 were also provided with £170,000 to deliver parts of the programme.13

Entitlements under the Victims’ Code

9.The Victims’ Code, modified in October 2015, provides some entitlements relating to restorative justice. These entitlements differ based on the age of the offender. Victims whose offender is an adult are entitled to receive information on restorative justice, including how they can take part.14 Victims of youth offenders15 are entitled to be offered restorative justice by the Youth Offending Team operating in their area, where it is appropriate and available.16 There are also various duties under the Code on service providers of restorative justice; principal among them is a duty for the police under which they must pass a victim’s details to the organisation that is to deliver restorative justice to victims, unless asked not to do so by the victim.17

4 Ministry of Justice, RJU0060

5 Ministry of Justice, RJU0024, Annex A, Part A

6 Ministry of Justice, New victims’ funding for restorative justice, Ministry of Justice press release, 19 November 2013

8 Ministry of Justice, RJU0060,

9 Youth Justice Board, RJU0023

10 Ministry of Justice, RJU0024, para 14

11 Restorative Solutions CIC describe themselves as an organisation committed to supporting frontline practitioners, managing innovative programmes and delivering training to enable the use of restorative practice.

12 Thames Valley Partnership is a registered charity who describe themselves as being at the leading edge of restorative justice in the UK through its Thames Valley Restorative Justice Service (TVRJS)

13 Ministry of Justice, RJU0024, para 14

14 Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, chapter 2, part A, section 7, para 7.7

15 In this report by “youth offender” we mean an offender who is under the age of 18

16 Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, chapter 2, part A, section 7, para 7.9

17 Ibid, chapter 2, part B, section 7.3

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

18 August 2016