What is restorative justice?
Restorative justice is about bring those harmed by crime or conflict, and those responsible for the harm, together to provide everyone involved with a positive way forward, to repair the harm that has been caused.
Using restorative justice as a way of dealing with low-level crime, the restorative process gives victims the chance to tell offenders the real impact of their crime, to get answers to their questions, and an apology. It also lets offenders understand the real impact of what they’ve done, to take responsibility and make amends.
Restorative Justice holds offenders to account for what they have done, personally and directly, and helps victims to get on with their lives.
How is restorative justice used?
The victim is at the heart of the restorative justice process and is instrumental in deciding how the offender can undo the harm they have caused.
Restorative justice can take many forms. It is up to the victim to determine what the offender can do to repair the harm that they have caused. However, it must be proportionate and the offender must agree to carry it out.
- If an offender is caught shoplifting, it may be appropriate for them to apologise, return the goods and work voluntarily in the shop, such as bag-packing. If the packaging has been damaged during the theft, it will have devalued the product and it may be appropriate for the offender to pay the shortfall
- If an offender kicks over a garden wall, they may not have the skills to repair it, but the victim may request they tidy up another part of the garden instead
- A victim who has been verbally abused or assaulted (common assault) may want no more than a letter of apology
For real examples of how restorative justice has already been used, go to our case study page.
When can restorative justice be used?
Not all crimes can be dealt with using restorative justice. Examples of crimes suitable for the use of restorative justice include:
- theft (under £50 and not from theft from vehicles)
- criminal damage (under £100)
- common assault (not domestic) and Section 5 Public Order Act offences
In the past these crimes would have all been dealt with through the judicial system, for a first time offender this would usually involve a caution, reprimand, final warning or a fine. The victim would not have had any say in this process and offender would not have been given the opportunity to apologise to the victim for what they had done.
For examples of how restorative justice has already been used, go to our case study page.
Restorative justice is not a suitable outcome for all low-level offences, due to circumstances such as:
- The victim wants the offender to be processed through the criminal justice system
- The victim is vulnerable, whether through age, mental health or where they have been targeted
- The offender is a prolific offender, or has previously been arrested and dealt with through restorative justice, conviction, caution, conditional caution, reprimand, final warning, and youth conditional caution
- The offender does not admit the offence or shows no remorse