Why Victim Support approves of restorative justice
"There is a dearth of rigorous evidence in the criminal justice system about what really works, as distinct from a wealth of strong opinions about the way to deal with victims and offenders. Specifically, the restorative justice that involves face to face meetings has one of the strongest evidence bases in the world and here in the UK. We know from facts the medical world would see as credible, that victims who engage in the process can have reduced post-traumatic stress, be more satisfied with the criminal justice system, be less fearful of repercussions and find some form of closure. These are just a few of the benefits.
"At Victim Support ‘we help people find the strength to move on after crime’ – restorative justice fits perfectly into our one purpose. If helping victims move on was not enough on its own, and of course we think it is, it also reduces the rate of reoffending (i.e. less victims in future). All this leads to significant savings to the tax payer.
"Rigorous evidence aside, every experienced restorative justice facilitator has anecdotes about victims who have improved their quality of life after engaging in a restorative intervention.
"For example, victims who were taking anti-depressants as a result of their crime feeling well enough to stop taking the tablets, victims who had stopped work or had trouble staying at work all day going back to work, victims thinking about the crime just a few times a day rather than every 20 minutes, or even a boy of 10 who stops wetting his bed because the burglar said he wouldn’t do it again. Again, just a few of the many examples of how restorative justice can help victims move on.
"Victims and offenders cannot be forced into restorative justice meetings or other similar activities but they can be encouraged by the opportunity being made available and a requirement that engaging in the process be given due consideration. Magistrates, just like judges, cannot be forced to support restorative justice, but the new legislation gives them the opportunity to steer their sentences towards a tried and tested activity rather than hope the pieces are picked up later as an option post-sentence.
"We want victims to have access to restorative justice at whatever stage in the criminal justice system that most helps their recovery. The new legislation is an exciting development that brings the UK in line with evidenced-based practice and introduces the process as a solid activity with legal support as opposed to a fringe activity. At the pre-sentence stage victims can have their say and potentially feel that what they want to make things better has at least been seen by a sentencer. At this point a victim could feel an integral part of justice as opposed to an afterthought. At this point they could start to find the strength to move on."