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New Restorative Justice service launches to give victims a voice

New Restorative Justice service launches to give victims a voice
Victims of crime are being encouraged to consider whether they would benefit from the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner’s new Restorative Justice programme.
Restorative Justice offers a safe and controlled way for victims and offenders to engage in conversation to repair the harm caused. The PCC Matthew Scott has commissioned Restorative Solutions to deliver this service in Kent.
Mr Scott said:

‘Restorative Justice is all about empowering victims of crime to ask questions of their offenders.
‘It can be a very powerful tool in reducing reoffending. It enables victims to tell offenders the real impact of their crimes, get answers and possibly receive an apology. It also gives offenders the chance to understand what they have done, take responsibility for their actions and consider ways to make amends for their behaviour.’

More than 50 people have been referred into Restorative Solutions since the service began on 1 October including victims of burglary, assault and adolescent-to-parent violence.
One victim of criminal damage said after coming face-to-face with the offender:

‘It was so good to feel that my voice had finally been heard.’

The offender admitted afterwards:

‘I had no idea of the fear I had caused. It was never my intention.’

The Restorative Justice facilitator summed up:

‘I witnessed a powerful interaction between two parties. I noticed there was a lot of understanding happening.’

Rt Hon Damian Green MP for Ashford officially launched the service at Compass House – Kent’s victims and witnesses care and advice hub – on Friday 15 December.
Tony Walker, Director of Service Delivery at Restorative Solutions said:

‘We have a large number of very skilled practitioners who are highly-trained to help facilitate a meeting between a victim and the offender, or the communication could be by another means such as an exchange of letters.’

Leaflets have been printed to explain the process to victims, with separate versions for offenders and professionals. A promotional video has also now been produced which features ‘Wendy’, a victim who has previously benefitted from Restorative Justice.
She recalls:

‘I’d been trying to resolve the problem I’d had for years. I wanted an apology from the offender initially but I got more than that. He heard how his crime had affected me. Before the meeting he had all the control but I left the meeting with all the control in my court.’

Mr Scott added:

‘PCCs are elected to be a voice for victims in the Criminal Justice system and to commission services for victims. For people like Wendy, Restorative Justice can be a means of holding offenders to account. It is important to recognise that Restorative Justice is free, entirely voluntary and happens in addition to the normal Criminal Justice process. It is not a soft option or an alternative to going to court.’

Kent Police Chief Constable Alan Pughsley said:

‘Restorative Justice provides a unique opportunity for victims to have their say and get some closure following their ordeal, and for offenders to reflect on their actions.
‘It has a proven success rate; it reduces re-offending, and is an extremely worthwhile initiative.

‘I’m very pleased to see the programme established in Kent and would like to thank the PCC for all his support.’

Dr Phillip Lee, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, has said:

‘It is important that victims are informed about Restorative Justice and that they can access good quality “RJ” at all stages of the justice system. I know it can be a very positive and empowering experience for victims. It can also help to reduce reoffending.’

To find out more about how Restorative Justice could help you, call the RJ Service for Kent and Medway at Compass House on Freephone 0800 783 1583, or email [email protected].uk

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