Restorative justice Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The evidence base for restorative justice

1.We conclude that restorative justice, particularly victim-offender conferencing, has the potential to offer clear and measurable benefits to the criminal justice system and to wider society, but we agree with Dr Gavrielides that arguments relating to the cost-effectiveness of restorative justice are “thin”. In particular undue reliance should not be placed on the claim that £8 is saved for every £1 spent on restorative justice. This is because it arose due to a high performing site within the Home Office trial, applies only to victim-offender conferencing and does not take account of differing levels of cost and effectiveness across different types of offences. These points notwithstanding, there is clear evidence that restorative justice can provide value for money by both reducing reoffending rates and providing tangible benefits to victims. (Paragraph 18)

The effectiveness of the restorative justice landscape

2.We support the aims and objectives of the Ministry’s Restorative Justice Action Plan. In particular we welcome the Ministry’s focus on ensuring restorative justice services are high quality and victim-focused. (Paragraph 20)

3.Progress has been made in expanding the availability of restorative justice service across England and Wales. While we appreciate that some variation in restorative justice provision is inevitable, the objective of equal access regardless of geographic location has not yet been achieved. (Paragraph 23)

4.Information relating to how Police and Crime Commissioners are spending money allocated to them for restorative justice is helpful in assessing progress being made against the Ministry’s Action Plan. We recommend the Ministry works with Police and Crime Commissioners to publish information on how money is being spent to provide restorative justice on a yearly basis. The first such publication should be in the Ministry’s Action Plan progress report. (Paragraph 24)

5.We understand the attraction of ring-fencing funding to ensure that Police and Crime Commissioners spend money on restorative justice provision, but we agree with the Minister that there are serious difficulties with such an approach. In particular, due to the entirely voluntary nature of participation in restorative justice, it is difficult to predict with certainty how much should be allocated to it. We recommend that the Ministry continue to provide long-term funding for restorative justice to Police and Crime Commissioners, but this money should remain part of a wider pot of funding for victims’ services to provide PCCs with the flexibility to meet local needs. (Paragraph 26)

6.The goal to make restorative justice available to victims at every stage of the criminal justice system is a laudable one, but further work is need before it will be a reality. The Ministry should consider if there are tensions between the aims of the Action Plan and wider criminal justice policy, particularly in relation to any tension between provision of pre-sentence restorative justice and the requirements of Better Case Management. (Paragraph 28)

7.It is a matter of great concern to us that “Level One” restorative justice is being used by police forces in cases of domestic abuse. This risks bringing restorative justice into disrepute. It is crucial that frontline police officers are fully informed of the risks for vulnerable victims in such cases. We recommend that it be reaffirmed that “Level One” restorative justice is not appropriate for cases of domestic abuse and the Ministry of Justice work with police forces to ensure officers have proper guidance to avoid using restorative justice in inappropriate circumstances. (Paragraph 34)

8.We agree in principle that restorative justice should be available for all types of offence. While restorative justice will not be appropriate in every case, a bright-line exclusion rule is contrary to the aims of the Restorative Justice Action Plan. Despite this, given the clear risks of restorative justice for certain types of offence, we understand why some service providers have restricted use of restorative justice for certain types of offence, particularly domestic violence and sexual offences. In order to help promote the use of safe restorative justice in such cases, we recommend the Ministry of Justice work with the Restorative Justice Council to create and fund training and promote guidelines of best practice for facilitators in such cases. (Paragraph 36)

9.Restorative justice is more fully embedded in the youth justice system than in the adult system, but there is further progress to be made and particular effort should be made to improve victim participation. We recommend that the Government continue to embed restorative justice in the youth justice system and in particular consider following the model of youth conferencing used in Northern Ireland. (Paragraph 40)

10.Data sharing has presented a persistent obstacle to the delivery of restorative justice. We agree with the recommendations of Why me? and the Restorative Justice Council that the Ministry of Justice should produce and promote within the criminal justice system an information sharing template to speed up the agreement of data sharing protocols. We do not recommend legislation at this juncture to require data sharing, but this is an option which should not be excluded if non-legislative measures do not prove effective. The issue of data sharing is one which the Ministry should make specific reference to in its Action Plan progress report. (Paragraph 44)

11.The Ministry of Justice has an excellent reach with criminal justice organisations, but we are not convinced it is as effective in reaching victims, both potential and actual. While greater public awareness of restorative justice would be welcome, the priority must be in ensuring that victims of crime are properly informed about restorative justice and how they can access it. We recommend the Ministry, rather than engage in broad national awareness raising campaigns, should instead focus its resources on ensuring restorative justice is well understood by bodies within the criminal justice system who can then convey this information to victims. The Ministry should also provide support and funding to providers to enable local awareness campaigns. (Paragraph 50)

12.While there are several bodies within the criminal justice system who can and ought to be able to provide victims with information on restorative justice, we believe the police are well placed to ensure victims are informed about restorative justice in the first instance. But we have received evidence of inconsistency in making victims aware of restorative justice. We recommend a rigorous system be introduced to improve compliance with the police’s requirement to inform victims about restorative justice. For example, forms for victim impact statements could have a box which reads “I have had restorative justice and how I can take part explained to me by the officer.” Other criminal justice bodies also have a role to play in improving victim awareness of restorative justice. (Paragraph 51)

13.It would be too prescriptive to mandate that publicly-funded RJ services should attain the Restorative Services Quality Mark. Nevertheless there is value to ensuring a consistently high quality of delivery. We recommend that publicly-funded bodies should be required to demonstrate compliance with standards comparable to those Restorative Services Quality Mark (RSQM). We also recommend that NOMS review its service specifications against the RSQM. (Paragraph 54)

14.It has been made clear to us that judging the effectiveness of a restorative justice programme simply by reference to the number of conferences held is a poor measurement and could encourage counter-productive incentives. We recommend the Ministry of Justice, with the Restorative Justice Council, publish and promote clear guidance for commissioners of restorative justice services of what constitutes a successful restorative justice scheme, including measurements relating to offenders and victims such as victim satisfaction. (Paragraph 56)

15.The results of the NOMS Capacity Building Programme were hindered by concurrent organisational changes in both prisons and probation, but there were benefits from the programme, in particular the legacy products. In hindsight, it is likely the programme would have been more successful if it had focused on training voluntary sector workers. (Paragraph 61)

16.We have made clear in previous reports our serious concern about levels of violence in prisons. We will therefore be particularly interested in the findings of the pilot of restorative approaches to conflict resolution in prisons. (Paragraph 63)

17.The Ministry of Justice is well placed to take a leadership role in restorative justice and set out a clear overall vision for how it expects restorative justice services to be delivered. We understand the Ministry will not wish to be too prescriptive on a matter primarily driven by local priorities, but we believe there is scope for a clear direction as to how the system is expected to work. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice, when publishing its Action Plan progress report, provide an explanation of how they envisage restorative justice taking place across the criminal justice system. This should include what the roles of different organisations are, how they interact with one another and what support the Ministry of Justice will provide them. Clarity is particularly important in relation to probation services. (Paragraph 66)

The Victims’ Code and the Victims’ Law

18.In our view, there is no good reason for entitlements under the Victims’ Code being of differing strength depending on the age of the offender, as is the case now, with entitlements for victims of youth offenders being stronger. We recommend that the Ministry strengthen the entitlements of victims of adult offenders under the Victims’ Code so they are equal to that of victims of youth offenders. (Paragraph 68)

19.We are convinced that there is value in strengthening the existing entitlements under the Victims’ Code. In particular we find the proposal of providing an entitlement to restorative justice an attractive one. On the other hand we have already pointed out concerns about the capacity of the system to provide restorative justice services, particularly for certain types of offences. The Ministry should consult Police and Crime Commissioners and other stakeholders to assess capacity within the system and whether it is feasible to provide an entitlement under the Code for victims to access restorative justice services, with a corresponding duty on PCCs to provide those services. Depending on the results of that assessment, it might be prudent to exclude certain categories of offences from that entitlement, with an intention to include them in due course. (Paragraph 72)

20.Because of the issues of capacity we have already set out, we believe it is too soon to introduce a legislative right for victims to access restorative justice services, but we believe such a goal is laudable and should be actively worked towards. The Ministry should, in its consultation on the Victims’ Law, seek views on a legislative right to restorative justice and how such a right would be enforced. Our view is that the Victims’ Law should include a provision for victims to have a legislative right to access restorative justice services but this should not come into force immediately. Instead it should be a Commencement Order, which should be brought by a Minister only once he or she has demonstrated to Parliament that the system has sufficient capacity to provide restorative justice services to all victims. (Paragraph 73)

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18 August 2016