Posted: Monday 16th November 2015
Putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system has been a priority of mine since day one. A vital approach to achieving this is Restorative justice (RJ), a process that gives victims a greater voice and allows them to meet the person who harmed them and tell them how it made them feel. It also puts the victim back in control by allowing them to have a say in how amends are made – it could be writing a letter of apology, repairing damage or doing community work.
In addition to this when RJ has been used alongside a prison sentence or court punishment it is proven to have more of an impact. The offender has to face the consequences of their actions and I truly believe that for the majority of cases it will change their future behaviour. In order for RJ to work effectively however, it must be a victim-led process as ensuring the victim regains control is an important step in the recovery journey.
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. A lot of work has been done over the past eighteen months to help raise awareness of restorative justice in Avon and Somerset; making it available to people at any stage of the criminal justice system where appropriate and effectively delivering it to help victims recover from their experience.
To deliver my vision for restorative justice I appointed a Restorative Justice Development Manager, Helen Rosenthal and shortly after three Restorative Justice Coordinators were recruited. These RJ Coordinators are located within the three Lighthouse Hubs in The Bridewell, Keynsham and Bridgwater to act as a first point of contact for people looking for more information about RJ or to see if they can take part in restorative justice conference.
In addition to this, the Ministry of Justice made funding available to PCCs to help build restorative justice capacity, and where capacity is sufficient, fund victim-led restorative justice provision. With this funding I was able to commission a Restorative Justice Delivery Service in the form of a Neighbourhood Restorative Justice site for Bristol, the North East and Somerset. More information about this can be found on my website.
This week (November 15) marks National Restorative Justice Week and once again gives us the opportunity to help raise awareness of restorative justice and the potential benefits of meeting the person responsible if you have been a victim of crime or anti-social behaviour. We’ve commissioned some radio adverts and billboards will be in place across Bristol, Bath and Somerset, so I would encourage you to listen and look out for those to find out more.
On Thursday, November 19 at 6pm, we will also be hosting an RJ live twitter chat and I would encourage you to get involved and submit your questions using the hashtag #ASRJWeek15. If you are interested in finding out more about restorative justice in Avon and Somerset please visit the Lighthouse integrated Victim and Witness Care website – www.lighthousevictimcare.org. You can also get in touch with the RJ Coordinators directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.