Finding your voice if you’ve been a victim of crime or anti-social behaviour is at the heart of restorative justice (RJ), the process which helps victims meet their offenders with the aim of putting them back in control.
Restorative justice plays a vital role in PCC Sue Mountstevens’ vision of putting victims first. Alongside RJ Development Manager, Helen Rosenthal, the PCC is working towards making RJ available to victims at every stage of the criminal justice system.
The 15-22 November 2015 marks Restorative Justice Week and we’re taking the time to raise awareness of the process across Avon and Somerset. As well as radio adverts and billboards across Bristol, Bath and Somerset, Helen will be speaking at the Restorative Bristol Conference and we’ll also be hosting a live twitter Q&A.
PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “Putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system has been a priority of mine since day one and a vital approach to achieving this is restorative justice. The process, which must be victim-led, has the power to put the victim back in control by allowing them to address with the offender how amends are made. The impact of restorative justice on victims and offenders can be both positive and powerful and that is why it has been so important to me to make this as widely available as possible to the local communities of Avon and Somerset.”
Mark Morgan is a parking attendant. A few months ago he found himself in a confrontational situation with a member of the public. Mark had been called to a private site to move on a resident who had overstayed the 20 minute drop off zone. That particular day Mark successfully moved on the offender. However, Mark was called back the next day to the same spot and the same offender, who refused to move. Mark had to issue a ticket.
Mark said: “The man ripped the ticket off his windscreen and slammed it into my chest. I told him it was assault and I phoned the police. He scarpered. I felt I needed to make a point to this man, there are guys on my team who are smaller and older than me and you can’t behave like this.”
Restorative Justice was offered to Mark by the police officer who took his statement.
Mark continued: “I wanted the opportunity to meet with this person, to explain it was someone else’s land. I explained it was like someone parking on your drive and refusing to move. I also explained that we don’t get commission for tickets we issue which is a popular misconception.
“The restorative justice process helped both of us. Because we came to a resolution, when I visit that site I am no longer on edge or worried I may have a confrontation with this man. That stops me feeling defensive and helps the way I respond to other parking situations. I think the offender’s eyes were opened too, he realises there are consequences to his behaviour.
“We are on friendly terms now, when we see each other we nod and say hello. That’s got to be better than tension in the air.”
Restorative justice can be used at any stage as a case goes through court as well as those dealt with outside court of the criminal justice system. In March 2012, the BBC visited Bristol Prison to record a Restorative Justice Conference as part of their Crime and Punishment series. You can view the RJ conference here:
If you’re interested in using restorative justice ask the person looking at your case who can discuss it with you and, if it’s suitable, refer it to one of our restorative justice coordinators.
On Thursday, November 19 the Avon and Somerset restorative justice coordinators will be hosting a live Q&A between 6pm - 7pm. You can tweet your questions to @RJCoordinators using the hash tag #ASRJWeek15. You can also submit your questions in advance by emailing email@example.com
Helen Rosenthal, RJ Development Manager said: “In developing RJ and presenting a vision for the future we have made a commitment to include people, open communications, and to be open in our need to do things differently. People do not choose to become victims; anyone can be a victim of crime at any time. In Avon and Somerset we have invested in structured RJ delivery to enable all victims of crime and anti-social behaviour to benefit from a simple and accessible RJ service.
“This investment helps victims feel safe in engaging with an effectively and efficiently run RJ model whilst on their journey of recovery. With a team of RJ Coordinators and delivery partners the developments in RJ address a large number of the issues that practitioners, local organisations, and partner agencies have previously experienced as the use of RJ has increased. We are proud that we have achieved a service that delivers positive outcomes for victims as well as organisations and the community as a whole.”
To find out more about how restorative justice could help you please visit the Lighthouse website - www.lighthousevictimcare.org or you can email the RJ coordinators at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our restorative justice coordinators can be found located within the three Lighthouse integrated witness and victim care hubs in the Bridewell, Keynsham and Bridgwater.