What is Restorative Justice?
There are many definitions of Restorative Justice (RJ). In its action plan for the criminal justice system (CJS) for the period to March 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) defined RJ 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.
RJ offers victims an opportunity to be heard and to have a say in the resolution of offences, including agreeing rehabilitative or reparative activity for the offender. It can provide a means of closure and enable the victim to move on.
RJ also provides an opportunity for offenders to face the consequences of their actions, recognise the impact that it has had upon others and where possible make amends. In this way, RJ has the potential to help rehabilitate offenders and enable them to stop offending. It has the potential to motivate them to change and become responsible, law abiding and productive members of society.
The MoJ’s vision defined in that action plan is for good quality, victim-focused RJ to be available at all stages of the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales. Success will mean that:
- Victims have equal access to RJ at all stages of the CJS irrespective of their location, the age of the offender or offence committed against them;
- People have an awareness and understanding of RJ, its benefits, what it entails and how to access it; and
- Good quality RJ is delivered by trained facilitators.
Raising Public Awareness
Objective 2 of the action plan is to raise awareness of RJ and its potential benefits and ascertain a consistent understanding of what RJ entails and its place in the CJS. They want messages to reach key target groups including victims, offenders, criminal justice policy developers, leaders and practitioners, the media and the general public.
Raising public awareness is one of the tasks that the Coventry RJ Forum has set itself.
RJ in Coventry
This is an exciting time to become engaged in RJ in Coventry. The city has been delivering RJ since 1985, initially through the Probation Service and later through other services.
The Forum is currently exploring who is delivering RJ within the city and talking to them to find out what they are doing. So far we have obtained reports of the work done at Finham School, the Youth Offending Team, Coventry Police, the Probation Service and Her Majesty’s Prison Service. More research will follow over the summer of 2018.
The Wider Picture
The MOJ wants RJ to be available throughout the CJS.
The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner is currently assessing a number of bids to run RJ throughout the CJS within the region. This could dramatically affect those who are already delivering the service.