If you are interested in restorative justice (and even if you're not but like a good play) have a listen to the Friday Play on BBC Radio 4 tonight at 9.00pm, called ‘After the Accident’.
I should declare an interest, as it’s written by my cousin, Julian Armistead, (who won the Protect the Human playwriting competition in 2008 with it).
His starting point was an interest in Restorative Justice , and specifically the process by which victims can meet with offenders (sometimes called VORP's - Victim Offender Reconciliation Programmes).
The story explores the aftermath of a car accident in which a husband and wife lose their six year old daughter to a collision caused by a couple of joy riders. The action is set four years afterwards.
This is what he says about it: “In the play, people find that their profoundest right (to the safety of their family) has been dreadfully violated. In this case, the criminal justice system doesn’t really offer a solution to this sense of violation, especially when they see the young offender about to go free on parole, having served half his sentence, so there’s a real reason for them to seek an alternative means of redress.”
It's been a shame that the Government hasn't been bolder in seeking to develop these kinds of programmes, after initially talking a good game. Such initiatives can make a huge difference to people's lives. There are however two great barriers. The first is the way that the criminal justice system is set up in an adverserial way to pit crown/ state against (alleged) offender with victims first and foremost as witnesses to secure conviction. The second is of course certain sections of the press that see moves in this direction as a 'soft option.'
I am really looking forward to listening to how Julian deals with the issues. An interest in them seems to come down both sides of my family. On the other side my Great (x 4) Grandmother was the Quaker prisoner reformer, Elizabeth Fry.