We asked our Crime team to explain Restorative Justice – see our Q&A below.
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice can be used as part of an out of court disposal either as part of a community resolution or conditional caution. The idea is for offenders to take responsibility for their crime, express remorse and make amends and it is available for low-level crimes.
(RJ) is a victim focus resolution to a crime or a non-crime incident. The process is flexible; its aim is to hold offenders accountable to their victims, reduce reoffending and improve community cohesion. It can offer a proportionate response with a tangible outcome for the victim.
Through this process, both offenders and victims communicate with one another to “restore” justice either as an alternative to, or alongside, other punishments. It may give the offender a chance to explain why they committed the crime, and for the victim to explain the impact the crime had upon them.
This often results in an apology, either face-to-face or written, and mediation sessions can take place between the two parties.
When can Restorative Justice be used?
RJ can be used at any stage of the criminal justice process. This includes after sentence, but it is more common for RJ to be used as a diversion from the court process. It can be used as an alternative to being charged by either the police or the CPS. Restorative Justice can be appropriate when an offender accepts guilt and indicates a willingness to engage with the process.
This can be particularly useful for young offenders and first time offenders.
Which offences can be dealt with by Restorative Justice?
There is no set list of offences. As a guide, however, it tends to be used in low level crimes before the Magistrates’ and Youth Court.
Who can administer Restorative Justice?
The police have the power to administer conditional cautions. In those circumstances, restorative justice should always be considered.
Where RJ is an option, the police will contact the victim (unless there are exceptional reasons not to do so) to ask for their views on reparation as a condition of the caution. The victim may be asked if they would like to be involved in the process, either directly or indirectly.
Sometimes victims do not wish to engage, either because of the trauma of the offence, or other reasons. In those circumstances, the police can consider whether there is anybody else in the community that has been affected. If there is no individual to engage with the offender, a Restorative approach can still be used to deliver the conditional caution by encouraging the offender to consider what harm their offence has caused and how they might repair it.
The final decision on whether RJ is appropriate is for the prosecutor, not the offender or the victim.
Does Restorative Justice show on criminal record checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)?
An acceptance of restorative justice is often disclosed on enhanced criminal record checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service. Unfortunately, you have little control over how it will appear on your criminal record, therefore when considering whether to accept restorative justice, you should always seek legal advice.
There may be a temptation to admit an offence to avoid court proceedings, however it might be the case that evidence was very weak and unlikely to result in a conviction. In which case, you must be careful to consider whether you want your good character tarnishing at all.
Get an expert opinion
If you have been accused of committing a low level offence then you should seek advice if you are interested in restorative justice instead of being charged with an offence.