Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t this just an easy option?

No. Facing someone you have harmed can be incredibly daunting for an offender – much more so than a court hearing, a prison sentence or a meeting with a Probation Officer. Restorative Justice holds the harmer directly and personally to account by the person they affected, and provides insight into the real impact of their behaviour. Every offender who has participated in a restorative meeting has reported feeling uncomfortable, nervous and uneasy. One offender said “Every inch of my body told me to turn back and not attend the meeting, however, I felt that I couldn’t let the victim down again”.

Is it safe?

Safety is paramount, and each case is carefully risk assessed throughout. Special precautions are taken to manage any potential risk. Where risks are too high to be appropriately managed, we will explore other ways of facilitating communication.

Does it work?

What’s clear is that traditional sanctions do not. The latest long-term reoffending study showed that 8 out of 10 people leaving prison go on to reoffend (78.4%), as well as 7 out of 10 people serving community sentences (67.8%)1.

Internationally, re-offending is 41% lower when restorative approaches are used, and the gravity and frequency of offending drops too2.

Victim satisfaction is high at 85%, and 78% would recommend it to others in a similar situation3.

Are there any offences which wouldn’t be eligible for RJ?

The Restorative Hub supports the view of the Restorative Justice Council (RJC), that this approach can potentially be used for all types of crime. Specific risk management procedures should be in place for certain cases, such as domestic abuse, hate crime and sexual offences. However through the use of skilled, specialist practitioners and shared awareness, restorative justice has been proven to deliver effective resolutions in some of the most traumatic circumstances.

What does pre-sentence mean?

This is the phase of the criminal justice system between the acceptance of guilt and the hearing where the Judge or Magistrate delivers their sentencing decision upon sentencing. It represents a victim’s opportunity to have their voice heard prior to the finalisation of the criminal process.

If I opt for the pre-sentence opportunity, will this change the sentence the offender receives?
Participating in pre-sentence restorative justice is entirely for the victim’s benefit and is not designed to reduce the sentence for the offender. A report will be prepared for the Court for the sentence hearing which will record the victim’s views, thoughts and feelings following their communication with the offender. It is the Judge who ultimately decides the sentence.

Will pre-sentence RJ mean the offender does not go to Court?

No. Pre-sentence restorative justice is not designed to replace criminal justice proceedings, but can be offered alongside criminal justice and can deliver benefits that traditional criminal justice on its own cannot.

What are the benefits for the offender?

In addition to the many benefits Restorative Justice offers to victims, it can also have a profound impact on offenders. To be eligible to take part offenders must accept responsibility for their actions and demonstrate a genuine willingness to communicate meaningfully.

The offender has the opportunity to listen to the person they have harmed, and can answer any questions that the victim might have. Studies show that offenders who meet their victims are 41% less likely to commit crime again in the future 4. Offenders who have taken part in restorative justice processes have said that the experience has helped them understand how their actions affect others. It offers offenders the chance to explain their actions and understand the implications of their behaviour and, where possible and acceptable to the victim, to make some amends.

Careful preparations are made to ensure that the meeting has positive value for all who attend.

What does mediation mean?

Mediation gives parties in a disagreement the chance to hear each other in a private and confidential process, thereby minimising the harm that can come from that conflict. The parties are supported by an impartial facilitator, who helps the parties negotiate a shared agreement. Mediation can be used to resolve disputes of any size.

References:

1. Ministry of Justice 2012 Compendium of Re-offending Statistics and Analysis
2. Rebecca Mullane et al, ‘Managing Interpersonal Conflict: Advances Through Meta-Analysis’, 2014. (Chapter 9, authored by Nancy A. Burrell, Mike Allen, Barbara Mae Gayle, Raymond W. Preiss)
3. Shapland, J., Atkinson, A., Atkinson, H., Chapman, B., Dignan, J., Howes, M., Johnstone, J., Robinson, G. and Sorsby, A. (2007) Restorative Justice: The Views of Victims and Offenders: The third report from the evaluation of three schemes. Ministry of Justice Research Series 3/07. London: Ministry of Justice, pages 29 and 42.
4. Rebecca Mullane et al, ‘Managing Interpersonal Conflict: Advances Through Meta-Analysis’, 2014. (Chapter 9, authored by Nancy A. Burrell, Mike Allen, Barbara Mae Gayle, Raymond W. Preiss)