More people will have access to restorative justice putting victims back in control and helping offenders see the error of their ways, following the launch of a new restorative justice (RJ) service covering the whole of Avon and Somerset.
Restorative Approaches Avon and Somerset, funded by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens,will provide a single point of contact for RJ in the area, supporting victims who wish to communicate with their offender in a protected environment.
The process, called restorative justice, gives victims a chance to communicate directly or indirectly with the other person and discuss what happened, helping them gain an understanding of their feelings and giving them an opportunity to ask questions.
PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “Ensuring victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system is crucial in giving victims of crime a voice. Restorative justice approaches are proven to help victims come to terms with their experience and enable them to cope and ultimately recover from the harm that has been caused.
“The process, which is mostly victim-led, has the power to put the victim back in control by allowing them to address with the offender their experiences and how amends are made. Often this process also leads to changes in offending behaviour, as the offender understands the consequences of their actions and is less likely to commit further offences.
“The impact of restorative justice on victims, offenders and the wider community can be both positive and powerful. That is why it continues to be so important to me, that restorative justice services are made as widely available as possible to the local communities of Avon and Somerset.”
Could you imagine sitting opposite the person who had committed a crime against you? What would you say? How might you feel? As part of Restorative Justice Week 2017, Pete (not his real name), has shared his story to help others understand what this might be like:
“After a break in at my property and the theft of my car, I was left with many unanswered questions including why me and what could I have done to prevent this happening? Sometime after the incident was reported, I received a call from the restorative justice team. From this, I found out that an individual had admitted to carrying out this and other burglaries and following a trial, was now in prison.
“The facilitators from the team arranged to visit me to explain the restorative justice process and asked whether I would like the opportunity to meet the offender. Having considered this carefully, I agreed to meet the individual involved in the hope that this would help both him and me move forward. They did an excellent job in preparing me for the meeting, including helping me to understand the background to the crime and how the meeting would operate.
“The prison visit was an interesting experience and whilst I was a little nervous in meeting the person involved, it proved to be a valuable session for the both of us. I was able to get answers to my questions and find out more about the individual and their motivations. The offender was genuinely remorseful for the incident and seemed to benefit from hearing first-hand the impact of their actions.
“I would certainly recommend others considering the restorative justice process to take up the opportunity. The process is safe, well organised and has helped me to get closure following the incident. I believe that meeting the victims of crime makes offenders take more responsibility for their actions, which in turn means they are less likely to commit further crimes in the future.”
You can view Pete telling his story here:
If you would like to find out more or take part in restorative justice please get in touch with one of the RJ caseworkers by phoning 0117 9415879, texting 07377 864060 / 07377 864061 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Julie Cox, Director of Bristol Mediation, who will deliver the new service, said: “Lots of people ask me, does restorative justice work. On asking our service users 98% of victims who accessed our services were very or mostly satisfied. In addition, 99% of offenders who accessed our services were very satisfied. Let us help you to repair the harm.”
Throughout Restorative Justice Week 2017, the Restorative Approaches team will be at various events raising awareness of RJ services in the area:
- 21/11 – Hosting a stand at the University of the West of England (12-2pm) as well as attending Lamps Junction & Weston College, North Somerset on the Mavis Bus (10am-3pm).
- 22/11 – Speaking at the Social Science in The City Event, at the Station in Bristol, on working with young people to discuss conflict resolution (6.30-8pm). Screening of ‘A Conversation’ at Redland Quaker Meeting House, Redland – a free event screening a murder case and a play of the subsequent restorative justice conference followed by a group discussion. Get tickets here.
- 23/11 – Speaking to local people at information stands at City Hall, Bristol.
- 24/11 – Hosting an ‘Engaging with conflict’ workshop, Bristol & hosting a pop-up stand at Taunton market, near the tourist information centre (10-3pm).
As well as interested victims and offenders, effective restorative practices rely on skilled and committed volunteers. Those who want to find out more about becoming an RJ volunteer visit www.bristol-mediation.org/join-us
What is Restorative Justice?
Posted on Sunday 19th November 2017