Restorative Justice Week provides a timely opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of this intervention. It is often misunderstood and seen as a process for apologies to be made but it can provide much greater benefits for all involved. Restorative justice provides victims (harmed) of crime with the ability to meet with their offender/s (harmer/s) to explain the impact that the crime has had. It gives victims a voice and enables them to ask questions in a safe environment. For offenders it helps them to recognise the harm they have caused and the impact their actions have had on victims. Restorative Justice aims to help victims move forward and reduce re-offending by offenders. The process is voluntary of both the victim and offender and is supported by trained facilitators.
Matthew Scott, Kent PCC said:
‘As part of my role in this county, I commission services to support victims of crime, regardless of whether that crime has been reported to the Police. Crime impacts people in many different ways and I am committed to ensuring that high quality support services are available at their time of need.
That is why I commissioned Restorative Solutions to deliver restorative justice in Kent, as it can achieve positive outcomes for victims and reduce re-offending.
Let me be clear though, this process is not an easy option. It only occurs when an offender has admitted guilt for the offence and both victim and offender voluntarily agree to participate. The case study below outlines the effectiveness of this process. Thank you to Restorative Solutions for helping me in giving victims a voice’.
Context: This was a case of an overnight “creeper” burglary in a residential dwelling where the harmer had gained access through an unlocked back door. Cash, phone, camera and other small items of sentimental value were stolen, together with food from their fridge and alcohol.
The wrongdoer was caught through DNA evidence left at the property, although by this time he was living out of Kent.The harmed persons agreed to a direct restorative process. At an initial meeting they shared concerns that the wrongdoer may be vulnerable due to the theft of food, so believed restorative justice may support the harmer in stopping reoffending. They were initially less concerned about the impact of the burglary on themselves.
The Harmer was in custody in Kent and at initial meeting it was difficult for him to recall the offence, as he had undertaken a number of other similar burglaries. However, when reminded about the food and alcohol taken, he immediately agreed to participate in a restorative process as he wanted to apologise as he was aware of the harmed persons’ ages.
The harmed had experienced a burglary some 20 years previously, which still had an impact, and realised that the recent burglary had increased their feeling vulnerable, cautious and less trusting.
Meeting: The harmer was very nervous about the meeting and was clearly emotional listening to the harmed persons’ accounts, making several verbal apologies during the course of the meeting. He answered questions and responded to their comments. He accepted he had not considered consequences on others at the time of the offence as he was homeless, needed money and only thinking about himself. He was able to reassure the harmed persons that they had not been targeted and he was working alone.
Outcome: The harmed persons reported they were delighted to have met with the harmer and that the process had been positive and uplifting for them. They hoped to be kept informed of how the harmer progresses and would recommend the process to anyone.
Jacqueline McHugh, Head of the Restorative Justice Service for Kent & Medway stated:
‘RJ week gives us the opportunity to highlight some of the excellent work that has been delivered by our service for the victims of crime in Kent & Medway. We have continued to deliver the full service throughout the Covid-19 period, albeit in a modified way when necessary. Restorative Justice is not for everyone, and it must be stressed that offenders that take part, do not receive a lesser sentence for doing so. It is very much about the Victim having the opportunity to be heard and those that take part are very positive about their experience. We would like to thank the OPCC and Mathew Scott for their continued support’.