RJC responds to Home Secretary’s comments on restorative justice for victims of domestic abuse
In a speech yesterday at the Police Federation Annual Conference in Bournemouth, Theresa May criticised the police for using restorative justice with victims of domestic violence. She spoke of victims being asked to meet their abusers “with no consideration of the psychological and emotional damage that can cause”.
The RJC acknowledges the very real risks involved in using restorative justice in domestic violence cases. We do not advocate its use in every case and no victim should ever be expected or in any way pressurised to take part. Even where victims request it, an expert assessment is needed of that individual’s specific situation. The safety of victims is paramount and restorative justice should never be used in cases of domestic violence without a thorough risk assessment and unless a practitioner with expert training and experience is confident that it will not put the victim at risk of further harm.
Used appropriately, however, restorative justice can have real benefits for victims. Many victims of domestic abuse are able to regain control and empowerment if offered restorative justice at the right time for them. Although we recommend proceeding with caution in these cases, we do not want to see restorative justice ruled out for those victims of domestic abuse who may significantly benefit from the process. It is also important to note that restorative justice can be used where a case goes to court, including alongside a prison sentence where that is merited.
Wherever restorative justice is used, we want to ensure that it is only carried out by properly trained facilitators who understand the inherent risks and safeguard victims accordingly. It is vital that practitioners working with victims of domestic violence fully understand and recognise coercive and controlling behaviour in particular, and we are planning to work with experts in this field to develop specific training for that purpose.