One of the priorities in my Police and Crime Plan is to put victims, witnesses and communities at the heart of everything we do. By giving those who have been harmed the opportunity to communicate with the person that has caused them harm, we are able to keep them at the centre of the process, and if they choose, help them to navigate the path of restorative justice which may help them to mend and move forward.
Having a restorative approach available is a really important part of our criminal justice system, not to replace the punishment directed by the criminal justice system, but for it to work alongside and complement it. When appropriate it can also be used instead of criminal proceedings.
For some it is far more difficult to meet face to face with the person they have harmed, to listen to the impact of their actions on an individual, family or business, and to take responsibility for the harm that they have caused. Consequently it can see repeat offending being greatly reduced.
The restorative justice approach can be applied to any conflict situation not just within the criminal justice system but in everyday life. We see it widely used in communities, schools and workplace but it can be applied at all levels including cases like driving incidents, assaults and murder, so long as both parties are willing to engage.
Having a criminal record will impact on the rest of an individual’s life so we should not take the responsibility of criminalising someone lightly. Restorative justice is proving a successful approach to some lower level criminal and anti-social behaviour where education is key. This particularly applies to young people, offering them the opportunity to change the direction of their lives before formally entering the criminal justice system.
This fits in well with the style of policing from Wiltshire Police, and I am pleased to say that over the last few years Restorative Together the service provider in Wiltshire have delivered training to a number of officers, In line with this approach the Force also introduced the Youth Restorative Intervention, a multi-agency decision panel with an emphasis and focus on restorative Justice, engagement and intervention, to prevent young people entering the criminal Justice system and to ensure that outcomes for young people are appropriate, fair and consistent. Each case incorporates and considers restorative justice as a positive outcome for the panel and each Youth Restorative Intervention panel has a trained worker involved in the discussions.
It is currently a very difficult time for all aspects of our Criminal Justice System as they continue to address the issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and restorative justice processes are no exception to this.
Restorative Together continues to be a valued service in Wiltshire and I am incredibly grateful to the team, including all our volunteer facilitators who give their time to offer those who have experienced harm the opportunity to go through this process.