Home Office findings on restorative justice 'very positive'

Home Office findings on restorative justice 'very positive'

By staff writers
24 Feb 2006

Home Office findings on restorative justice 'very positive'

-24/02/06

The findings of Home Office research into restorative justice projects which bring together victims of crime and offenders, have been welcomed as 'very positive'.

In restorative justice programmes, which have been pioneered around the world for several decades by amongst others, Christians, most notably Mennonites, offenders have the opportunity to acknowledge the impact of what they have done and to make reparation, and victims have the opportunity to have their harm or loss acknowledged and amends made.

The study considered three pilot schemes in Northumbria, Thames Valley, London and South Yorkshire.

Restorative Justice is being explored as a way of cutting re-offending rates, facing the perpetrators of crimes up with the consequences of their actions, but also bringing more satisfaction for victims who may also have their fear of crime diminished.

In one scheme, 60% of offenders admitted "a lot or quite a lot" of responsibility, the research indicated. Only 11% of offenders were prepared to admit no or little responsibility for the crime.

"There were expressions of anger about the offence and its impact, but shouting or heated argument rarely occurred," the research paper said.

"Threats were extremely rare - three conferences out of the 217 observed - and there were no assaults between participants," the study added.

The vast majority of victims - about 75% - declined an offer to meet the offender when given a choice between a direct meeting or indirect mediation.

But agreement rates were significantly higher in cases involving young offenders.

A Home Office spokeswoman said existing research suggested that at least three quarters of victims who chose to take part in restorative justice schemes were glad they did so.

Safety fears had caused only two conferences to be abandoned.

Debra Clothier, chief executive of the Restorative Justice Consortium, said the findings were "very positive" overall.

"There was no violence in many hundreds of cases. People expect there to be problems far more often in a situation where the parties are brought together," she said.

Ms Clothier observed that victims were increasingly keen to take part in restorative justice mediation.

The latest research "confirms there is a place for restorative justice in the criminal justice system", she said.

This was shown in the levels of victim participation and the wide range of offences involved "without any risks to the safety of the participants".

Church leaders, including the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, have supported ideas of restorative justice.

In 1998 and 1999 the Government in England and Wales introduced two pieces of legislation relating to youth justice, (the Crime and Disorder Act and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act) which introduced the principles of restorative justice.

Following widespread concern about the treatment of children in prison a recent report by Lord Carlile acknowledged that 'when looking at secure institutions for young people with the emphasis on the treatment of those children whilst there, restorative practices can provide some clear benefits for reducing conflicts and the need for punitive solutions for dealing with the aftermath of any conflict'.

It was noted that restorative practices used in a 'whole prison approach' might offer one alternative to the use of physical intervention. Circles, Conferences or Mediation and Restorative Conversations were some possible models that were identified to solve this problem.

The findings of Home Office research into restorative justice projects which bring together victims of crime and offenders, have been welcomed as 'very positive'.

In restorative justice programmes, which have been pioneered around the world for several decades by amongst others, Christians, most notably Mennonites, offenders have the opportunity to acknowledge the impact of what they have done and to make reparation, and victims have the opportunity to have their harm or loss acknowledged and amends made.

The study considered three pilot schemes in Northumbria, Thames Valley, London and South Yorkshire.

Restorative Justice is being explored as a way of cutting re-offending rates, facing the perpetrators of crimes up with the consequences of their actions, but also bringing more satisfaction for victims who may also have their fear of crime diminished.

In one scheme, 60% of offenders admitted "a lot or quite a lot" of responsibility, the research indicated. Only 11% of offenders were prepared to admit no or little responsibility for the crime.

"There were expressions of anger about the offence and its impact, but shouting or heated argument rarely occurred," the research paper said.

"Threats were extremely rare - three conferences out of the 217 observed - and there were no assaults between participants," the study added.

The vast majority of victims - about 75% - declined an offer to meet the offender when given a choice between a direct meeting or indirect mediation.

But agreement rates were significantly higher in cases involving young offenders.

A Home Office spokeswoman said existing research suggested that at least three quarters of victims who chose to take part in restorative justice schemes were glad they did so.

Safety fears had caused only two conferences to be abandoned.

Debra Clothier, chief executive of the Restorative Justice Consortium, said the findings were "very positive" overall.

"There was no violence in many hundreds of cases. People expect there to be problems far more often in a situation where the parties are brought together," she said.

Ms Clothier observed that victims were increasingly keen to take part in restorative justice mediation.

The latest research "confirms there is a place for restorative justice in the criminal justice system", she said.

This was shown in the levels of victim participation and the wide range of offences involved "without any risks to the safety of the participants".

Church leaders, including the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, have supported ideas of restorative justice.

In 1998 and 1999 the Government in England and Wales introduced two pieces of legislation relating to youth justice, (the Crime and Disorder Act and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act) which introduced the principles of restorative justice.

Following widespread concern about the treatment of children in prison a recent report by Lord Carlile acknowledged that 'when looking at secure institutions for young people with the emphasis on the treatment of those children whilst there, restorative practices can provide some clear benefits for reducing conflicts and the need for punitive solutions for dealing with the aftermath of any conflict'.

It was noted that restorative practices used in a 'whole prison approach' might offer one alternative to the use of physical intervention. Circles, Conferences or Mediation and Restorative Conversations were some possible models that were identified to solve this problem.

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