How restorative justice helped Fred and Betty
Picture posed by models
When Fred and Betty’s house was burgled it affected them in many ways. They felt unsafe in their own house and Betty struggled to sleep. With time these problems started to fade, but they were still upset by the loss of one of their mobile phones. The phone itself was not worth much, but on the phone were messages from their son who had since died; it was the only recording of his voice. When offered the chance to take part in restorative justice the thing they really wanted was to ask the burglar where the phone had gone.
Steve, the man who had broken into their home, was now in prison and wanted to answer any questions they had, and also to apologise. Fred and Betty did not want to meet Steve but communicated with Steve through the two facilitators who came to their home to meet with them. Steve was not able to tell them where the phone had ended up, as he had no idea. They did however have a chance to explain to Steve just how much that phone had meant to them and how much anguish the burglary had caused them.
After taking part in the process Fred and Betty said that, though the process had been upsetting, they had appreciated being able to talk about their loss with the facilitators. They realised that they no longer spoke about the burglary because neither of them wanted to upset the other, but both expressed relief at being able to talk it through. And though they were still sad about the loss of the phone, they appreciated being able to express to Steve how they had been affected by the burglary.
This is one example of what restorative justice could look at. It gives victims of crime a chance to deal with what they have experienced through expressing their feelings and asking questions. It gives offenders a chance to take responsibility for their actions and to acknowledge how their actions have harmed others. Together they look at how the harm can be repaired and how they can both move forward with their lives. The process is managed by two trained facilitators who help facilitate the communication. This can happen as in the case with Betty and Fred through shuttle-communication, it can also happen through letters or in a face-to-face meeting.
Restorative justice can take place at any stage of the criminal justice process. It is a process which puts victims and their experiences at the centre, looking for how to meet the needs of victims and help them move on with their lives.
The Victim Code of Practice 2015 states that victims of crime are entitled to receive information about RJ and, where appropriate, to be offered an opportunity to take part in RJ. Both the victim and the offender need to agree to this for the contact to take place. Victims who have taken part in RJ are very positive about the experience, reporting that it has helped them deal with what happened and move on with their lives.
Meet our Restorative Justice Co-ordinator
I have been appointed by Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson to be the Restorative Justice Co-ordinator across Wiltshire and Swindon. My role is to work with partners across the county to develop restorative approaches which can be accessed by all who would like to take part. We are working closely with the police, the National Probation Service, BGSW Community Rehabilitation Company, Wiltshire Council, Swindon Borough Council, youth offending teams, housing associations, Horizon Victim and Witness Care and Victim Support to provide a high quality RJ service. The aim is to offer all victims of crime access to RJ at all stages of the criminal justice system.
Since I took up the post in January 2016 we have created a multi-agency board called Restorative Together which meets four times a year. The members are made up of our partners and we work together to build on the RJ already provided in our county, as well as expanding the RJ on offer. We have commissioned several training programmes including a three-day facilitator training course. We have trained almost 50 people as Level 2 facilitators, 30 of whom are volunteers. We have set up an administrative hub and have started receiving referrals and delivering RJ conferences. We are currently working with the police to offer further training to front line officers to build on the restorative work they are already doing. As we move forward our goal is to make it easier for people to find out about restorative justice, and how they can take part.
RJ delivered to date
Restorative Justice has been used for some time in cases where the offender is under 18 years old. Those affected by an offence committed by a young person under the age of 18 are offered a chance to take part in RJ. The youth offending teams take the lead in this work.
Family group conferencing is offered across the county. Here restorative principles are used to help families come up with supportive solutions to their own challenges, using the resources of family members, friends and neighbours.
In February 2016 we facilitated our first post-conviction RJ conference involving an adult offender. Since then we have been involved in a number of RJ interventions in criminal justice cases. These cases include offences such as fraud, burglary, road traffic collisions, actual bodily harm and assault. RJ can take place before or after sentencing, or even in cases which don’t go to court.
We have also started delivering restorative interventions for anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood disputes.
Does it work?
Government research demonstrates that restorative justice provides an 85% victim satisfaction rate and a 14% reduction in the frequency of reoffending.
How does it work?
Restorative Justice is completely voluntary and there is no pressure to take part. In a carefully prepared and skilfully facilitated process both the offender and victim exchange their experiences, directly or indirectly, to explore the harm caused. It concludes with an agreement on how the harm can be repaired.
Experienced facilitators are available to support and arrange the meetings or other dialogue between you and the offender.
There are several approaches which may be possible and not all circumstances will result in face to face meetings. Each request will be assessed individually to ensure the process is safe, respectful and a positive experience for all parties. You will be made aware of the different ways you could choose to communicate — a face to face meeting, in writing or through shuttle mediation (where parties do not meet). We work with all parties to prepare and facilitate the chosen process.
Benefits of Restorative Justice:
- Puts the needs of the victim first
- Gives victims a greater voice in the criminal justice system
- Allows victims to receive an explanation from offenders
- Makes offenders accountable for their actions
What are the benefits for victims?
Crime can have a huge variety of effects on the victim and their recovery can be complex. Studies have shown that meeting the person who has harmed them can be a huge step in moving forward and recovering from the crime.
Benefits of Restorative Justice to the victim:
- Makes an offender realise how the crime has affected your life
- Information to help put the crime behind you – e.g. why the offender targeted you
- To be able to ask for reparation
- Reduce post-traumatic stress disorder
Is it a soft option for offenders?
For offenders, the experience can be incredibly challenging as it confronts them with the personal impact of their crime. It holds them to account for their actions and gets them to face the consequences of the harm they have caused. It is certainly not a soft option.
How do I find out more?
Community remedy leaflet
Restorative Justice poster
If you are interested in knowing more about - or taking part in - Restorative Justice please contact the RJ Coordinator, Inger Lowater, on 01380 861 280 or email
Meet some of our volunteers
Two of our RJ volunteers, Peter O'Callaghan and Cordelia Rowlatt, have written about what drew them to become involved and their first impressions of the training we offer.
You can also see a picture of some of our recently recruited volunteers and read more about their role and responsibilities.
Please return to the main menu and click on the Volunteering tab and select Resdtorative Justice Facilitator from the drop-down menu.
Watch this short video
Video courtesy of the Restorative Justice Council