We have found that one of the best ways to discourage young people from committing further crime is to make them face the consequences of their actions and the harm caused.
Victim participation is always voluntary, and offenders need to have admitted some responsibility.
This can lead to the offender making reparation - either to the victim or the wider community. There are two types:
The offender and victim do not meet face to face, but communicate through someone else or in writing.
With the help of a facilitator, this can be between just the victim and the offender or it may involve a conference with supporters for victim and offender attending. Community representatives may attend if appropriate.
How restorative justice can help
Restorative justice can help people find local solutions to local problems and build stronger, more cohesive communities.
- be volunteer facilitators
- make suggestions for local restorative projects
- act as supporters for victims and offenders
Restorative justice holds offenders to account, allowing them to take responsibility for their actions and identify steps to help them stop offending.
Many victims have found that becoming involved in the criminal justice process helps them deal with their anxiety and the anger following the crime.
Telling the offender what you have suffered and gone through can help you feel better and help put the memory behind you.
Key elements of restorative justice
Three key elements form the basis of restorative justice in practice.
Holding young people to account for their actions and encouraging the development of more responsible behaviour
Exploring how to make amends - to victims crime or to the community in general i.e. reparation
Seeking to provide support, assistance and guidance so that young people grow into law abiding adults.
There are several models of restorative justice being developed:
- Victim consultation
Gives official recognition that victims have suffered an injustice and are entitled to have their views taken into consideration.
- Victim support or assistance
More usually provided by victim support agencies; is restorative in nature as the victims draw a line under the offence.
- Letters of apology
Where sincere and sensitively presented, such apologies allow offenders to show remorse and accept responsibility.
- Direct reparation to the victim
An apology, financial reparation or practical work to repair damage. Requires consent from all parties and must be supervised at all times.
- Community reparation
Practical reparative work for the benefit of the community, usually where the victim or offender does not consent to other forms of reparation or where there is no identifiable victim.
- Direct or indirect mediation
Which involves dialogue between the offender and victim, either face to face or through a mediator. This must be voluntary and requires the consent of both parties.
- Family group conferencing
Allows a wide group of participants including family members and supporters for offender and victim, who may themselves have been affected by the offence. The participation of others can be significant to recovery or rehabilitation.
- Community conferencing
Similar to family group conferencing but all the work of the conference is done in the presence of the victim.