Strasbourg, 19 March 2007                                                   




Working Group on Mediation


3rd meeting - Strasbourg, 3 - 4 April 2007

Restorative Justice: the Government's strategy

Contribution by the United Kingdom

Restorative Justice: the Government's strategy

We believe that restorative justice has the potential to help achieve a range of objectives, particularly in relationship to crime and criminal justice.

So our overall objective is for the Criminal Justice System (CJS) to maximise the use of restorative justice, where we know it works well, to meet victims’ needs and to reduce re-offending.

Our strategy to deliver this objective has two elements:

·         Building in high quality restorative justice at all stages of the CJS, on the basis of existing knowledge about how it works.

·         Developing our understanding of where it works best and how it could be fully integrated with the CJS in the longer term.

Building restorative justice into the criminal justice system

Workstrand One: Restorative justice in police cautioning

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 allows police, working with the Crown Prosecution Service, to give offenders a caution for first time or minor offences with conditions attached – as long as the offender has admitted the offence and is willing to accept the caution and its conditions. If the offender fails to comply with the conditions, they can be prosecuted for the original offence.

The conditions will have to be for rehabilitative or reparative purposes, which can include taking part in restorative justice. The conditional cautioning scheme is governed by a Code of Practice approved by Parliament. The Code encourages the use of restorative justice and guides police forces as to when it might be most useful.

Workstrand Two: Developing restorative justice as a diversion from prosecution

We are funding various research pilots on restorative justice as a diversion from court. These pilots should fill the main outstanding gaps in the evidence base on restorative justice.

Deploying restorative justice as a diversion from court is undoubtedly more radical than using it in addition to normal criminal disposals and may also offer greater scope to realise fully its potential benefits.

The pilots will examine how diversionary restorative justice benefits victims, reduces re-offending, and assess the potential to deliver faster, more cost effective justice by saving court time and correctional service resources. It is also intended to test the relative merits of a range of restorative approaches, including conferencing, direct and indirect mediation, and also community reparation.

Building in restorative justice and reparation after conviction

The Government intends to step up both the quantity and quality of reparation for convicted offenders; and to encourage the development of restorative justice in the Prison and Probation Services. The Criminal Justice Act explicitly makes reparation a purpose of sentencing, and puts restorative justice on a statutory footing for the first time.

Courts can defer sentencing for up to six months. The Act allows them to impose requirements on the offender during the deferment period, including making reparation and participating in restorative justice. And when it comes to sentencing, they are able to take account of any reparation or restorative justice the offender has been involved in.  A Court of Appeal judgement reduced the length of a custodial sentence in the light of the offender’s participation in a restorative justice programme.

The Act allows courts to build restorative justice into some kinds of sentence - the new generic community sentence; the Suspended Sentence Order; the licence element of “Custody Plus”; and Intermittent Custody. It also makes clear that reparative work with the offender may also include direct or indirect contact with the victim – where the Probation Service recommends this and the court is satisfied that a victim wants to take

part, the offender has been risk assessed, and a trained mediator is available.

Workstrand Three: Developing victim-offender contact post conviction

To develop the delivery of restorative justice, the correctional services will aim, in the long term, to offer a positive and nationally consistent response to any victim who asks for it; and particularly to those to whom the Probation Service has a statutory duty.

The correctional services will work towards this goal by identifying and spreading best practice, supporting local areas which are already running restorative projects or want to use their existing resources set up a new one.

First, the National Probation Directorate and the Prison Service will map out existing restorative justice provision within the correctional services in England and Wales, whether run by probation staff or the voluntary sector, and including projects operating in prisons. This will establish a baseline upon which further projects can be built. Projects which appear to offer a model for best practice, will be examined in more detail to see what scope there might be for replicating them.

Second, the National Probation Directorate will create a network of experienced practitioners from across the country. The network will offer support and advice to staff in probation areas and prisons wanting to start offering restorative interventions, or to those who are less experienced. It will also provide information about relevant voluntary organisations.

Third, we will develop joint correctional services practice guidelines on restorative interventions. They will cover the respective roles of prison and probation staff, including those supporting but not running restorative justice processes directly, in ensuring that all necessary screening and risk assessments have been completed and all practical arrangements are in place.

Results of the current pilots of restorative justice in prison and probation settings are due in 2007. If the pilots are shown to reduce re-offending effectively, we will consider whether to replicate their methods more widely. This might involve accreditation by the Correctional Services Accreditation Panel, an advisory non-departmental public body that accredits programmes to reduce re-offending as part of custodial or community sentences.

Workstrand Four: Delivering more high quality reparation post conviction

Oxfordshire Youth Offending Team (YOT) offers an example of high quality practice in relation to reparation with young people. The correctional services will look to increase high quality reparation by adult offenders, by:

·         Identifying more reparative work – work that is of real benefit to communities and reduces re-offending.

·         Giving victims and communities a greater opportunity to say what reparative work they would like to see done.

·         Making reparation more visible to local communities, especially in communities damaged by crime.

More high quality reparative work.

In the long term, we want all offenders to make some kind of reparation for their crime wherever possible and appropriate. It should meet the needs of communities, and help cut re-offending. The evidence shows that reparation works best when the offender can see the benefit to others of what they are doing, and if it gives them employment-related skills.

However, there are a number of challenges to be overcome. It can be difficult to find enough work for offenders which match their skills, and offenders must be assessed as suitable for the work. Work must also meet health and safety requirements and must not require an unrealistic amount of supervision. Some communities may prefer offenders to do work which doesn’t involve contact with society, even though such contact can help reduce re-offending. In prisons, reparative schemes are also constrained by the requirements of security and the regime.

The Prison Service is looking at ways to increase the amount of high quality reparative work done by prisoners, and to ensure that work leads to improving resettlement opportunities and employment on release.

More say for victims and communities.

Giving local communities a greater say in what work offenders do helps to make sure that reparation really benefits local people. It makes clear that the offenders are making amends for the harm the community has suffered from crime. Local Probation Areas already work closely with local Crime and Disorder Partnerships to identify community safety projects that offenders can work on. We want to develop and make more visible the way local community organisations are consulted about reparation – for example, through involving neighbourhood watch committees at street level and Local Strategic Partnerships. There may also be ways to bring in victims’ views, either through restorative processes, where they are available, or through consulting victims’ groups.

More visible reparation

People want to see more reparation by offenders, but aren’t always informed about the reparation that is already happening. Visibility for reparative activity would show people in high crime areas that the harm caused by offending was being put right. As part of the Enhanced Community Punishment work, the Probation Service is developing a national scheme for badging the work of community punishment schemes, and looking at ways to raise awareness of less visible work, like work with elderly people.

Workstrand Five: Restorative justice as an approach to case management

The Prison and Probation Services will also consider the role of restorative justice in case management. Good case management is a key factor in ensuring that offenders receive and make best use of the interventions they need, such as drug treatment and offending behaviour programmes. Its importance has been highlighted by the Social Exclusion Unit's report Reducing Re-offending by ex-prisoners and the joint Prison and Probation Inspectorates’ thematic report Through the Prison Gate. Restorative processes can lead to the offender making a commitment to complete a programme. That commitment needs to be matched with what is available and with an evidence-based assessment of what is likely to have an impact on re-offending.

Workstrand Six: Expanding and developing restorative justice in the Youth Justice System

We will build on the successful introduction of restorative principles in the Youth Justice System by delivering more restorative interventions; involving more victims; and raising standards, especially to increase victim satisfaction. In the longer term, the Youth Justice Board (YJB) will encourage the use of restorative justice and victim work in all youth justice interventions.  It also aims to increase victim participation and face to face meetings. The YJB will:

·         Make sure that there are adequate processes to monitor and record levels of victim satisfaction.

·         Use its framework for performance improvement to raise standards in YOTs which are performing poorly.

·         Update its Key Elements of Effective Practice for restorative justice as we learn more about effective practice.

·         Develop detailed guidance on restorative justice in different contexts – schools; early prevention work, including youth inclusion and support panels; child victims; and the secure estate.

·         Disseminate models of good practice, so that YOTs can learn from one another.

·         Make available to all YOTs a restorative justice Assessment Profile, a tool to improve practitioners' performance, particularly in working with and engaging victims.

Workstrand Seven: Building restorative justice into new developments in the

Criminal Justice System

Restorative justice is a key aspect of the future direction of the Criminal Justice System. So we will ensure it is built into new developments wherever appropriate – such as the role of a planned new Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses and forthcoming pilots of Community Justice Centres (CJCs) and Intermittent Custody Centres (ICCs).

We are publishing a national strategy for victims and witnesses, in which restorative justice is a significant element, on the same day as this document. We intend to legislate at the earliest possible opportunity to improve services to victims. Our proposals include

the establishment of an independent Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses to champion their needs at a national level and help keep up the momentum for improvement. The Commissioner’s remit is intended to include ensuring that the development of restorative justice meets victims’ needs.

Victim Personal Statements already allow victims to tell a court about the impact an offence has had on them. We will consider developing the guidance offered to victims about the Victim Personal Statement, to make clear that victims can use this as an opportunity both to request restorative justice, if they wish, and to make suggestions on the type of reparation the offender could make. The guidance would need to avoid raising unrealistic expectations, since restorative justice is not always available to victims, and it will not always be possible to carry out their wishes on reparation.

Plans to pilot CJCs were announced in the Anti-Social Behaviour White Paper in March 2003. They are intended improve links between the community and the delivery of justice, dealing with local low level disorder offences and anti-social behaviour. Mediation and restorative justice will be available for local citizens who want them, perhaps as a diversion from court where appropriate, and at the sentencing stage of criminal proceedings. CJCs will also offer immediate on-site access to follow-on activities, such as drug treatment, debt counselling or arrangements for reparation to the community.

Workstrand Eight: Increasing understanding of restorative justice

All our efforts to build up the role of restorative justice will be more effective if it is well understood and supported both by the public and by professionals. Restorative justice depends on public participation – as victims, representatives of the community, volunteer facilitators or supporters of participants. So the public must know what it is and how they can benefit from participating. We also need to introduce measures to increase understanding about restorative justice amongst criminal justice professionals and related professionals in agencies who offer support, treatment and advice. To have confidence in restorative justice, they need to know what they can and can’t expect it to achieve.

We will put in place a programme of initiatives, based on existing communications avenues, to raise understanding of restorative justice among both the public and professionals, working closely with the voluntary sector and the YJB. This document and the subsequent consultation process are themselves important first steps.

Workstrand Nine: Ensuring high standards of provision

Quality of provision

High quality practice is essential to the successful growth of restorative justice. It ensures that victims can be confident that if they choose to participate, the process will meet their needs. And it supports broader public confidence in restorative justice, so that more people will want to participate. As evidence continues to accumulate about when and how restorative justice works, we need to develop clear standards in relation to effective practice, training and accreditation, whilst not stifling the innovative and flexible approaches which are a hallmark of restorative justice.

Effective practice guidance

A wealth of useful guidance on effective practice in restorative justice is already available from both voluntary and criminal justice agencies. The Restorative Justice Consortium (RJC), a national umbrella body for restorative justice, has developed a widely agreed set of principles.

Within the Youth Justice System, effective practice on restorative justice is reflected in the Youth Justice National Occupational Standards. The Youth Justice Board (YJB) has issued a guide to Key Elements of Effective Practice (KEEP) for restorative justice, which sets out how Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) can develop and apply quality standards.

Training and accreditation

Good training is essential for effective practice, both for those delivering restorative interventions and others associated with the process. Many of the principles of effective practice and training in restorative justice are the same as for community mediation, such as respect for participants, good listening skills, and a commitment to equal opportunities. But restorative justice training also needs to cover the particular issues that can arise in working with victims and offenders, recognising that one party has harmed the other, the wider community, and often themselves.

There is a wide variety of training packages already available to practitioners working in this field. Many trainers have themselves worked as practitioners, and base their training on their own experience, as well as on academic literature and research evidence, and on relevant models of alternative dispute resolution. There are also various routes to accreditation, on which the box overleaf sets out more detail.

Diversity of training providers is a good thing, encouraging innovation and giving choice to organisations buying in training. And much of currently available training is based on a common set of values, principles and skills sets. At the same time, following consultation, the Government believes there are three major issues to be addressed if restorative justice is to fulfil its potential both within and outside the CJS.

First, training packages need to cover the full range of restorative justice models and how to choose between them, so that practitioners can deliver direct or indirect mediation, conferencing or family group conferencing according to the needs of participants. At present, trainers generally cover either a conferencing or a mediation approach, but not both.

Second, there should be an agreed way of assuring occupational proficiency in restorative justice. At present, there is no nationally agreed set of standards for restorative justice practice or shared framework for quality control. There are no mechanisms for an individual trained in one approach to have their skills and abilities recognised by others. An agreed approach would mean greater clarity that those who have been trained can carry out restorative justice well. And it would raise standards by encouraging more practitioners to aim for accreditation – which many currently do not, given the absence of an agreed approach or statutory requirement for accreditation. We would aim for a shared approach to accreditation relevant to practitioners within and outside the CJS.

Third, there is a need for training to raise awareness of restorative justice among CJS and other professionals, helping to mainstream restorative ways of thinking in the CJS. This may mean developing and delivering more basic information for people who do not directly provide restorative justice, but whose support is needed for its success. We will also address this point in our plans to increase understanding of restorative justice.

Workstrand Ten: Considering integration with the Criminal Justice System

We will develop policy, in consultation with stakeholders, on how restorative justice could be fully integrated into the CJS, drawing on the results of research.

Workstrand Eleven: Linking with restorative approaches outside criminal justice

Restorative justice in the CJS supports and builds on restorative approaches in wider society. The Government is encouraging the use of alternative dispute resolution, including restorative justice, outside the CJS. We will monitor the development of these approaches outside the CJS, and look for opportunities for mutual support and learning. Areas for collaboration include:

Plans by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to start developing the use of restorative justice in schools, including through Key Stage 3 behaviour training and audits for all secondary schools in England from September 2003 under the Behaviour and Attendance Programme, and in the targeted Behaviour Improvement Programme.

Work in the Department for Constitutional Affairs to consider the future relationship between alternative dispute resolution and the courts.

The Neighbourhood Renewal Unit’s plans to develop community facilitation as a way to prevent conflict and build community cohesion. Work led by the Home Office to develop an action plan on civil renewal.