All victims of crime in England and Wales should be offered Restorative Justice (RJ) where appropriate. “Where appropriate” means, among other things, that the offender has to admit their guilt and be willing to take part in RJ.
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (the Victims Code) is the statutory code that sets out the minimum level of service that victims should receive from the criminal justice system.
Unfortunately is not the most clearly written document ever produced, but it is worth being aware of its contents regarding RJ since they explain your statutory rights.
The Victims’ Code applies to all criminal justice agencies, including the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Courts Service and the Probation Service. The Code was established by the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 and came into effect in 2006. Victim Support lobbied for it to be introduced and has campaigned for it to be improved and strengthened.
The Code sets out what each criminal justice agency must do for victims and the timeframe in which they must do it.
It states that victims are entitled, among other things, to receive information about Restorative Justice
and how you can take part. It goes on to explain the following.
Chapter 2 Adult Victims Entitlements, Section 7: Restorative Justice
7.1 Restorative Justice is the process of bringing together victims with those responsible for the harm, to find a positive way forward.
7.2 Restorative Justice offers you an opportunity to be heard and sometimes to have a say in the resolution of offences. This can include agreeing activities for the offender to do as part of taking responsibility for their actions and to repair the harm that they
have done. Restorative Justice can provide a means of closure and enable you to move on, while providing an opportunity for offenders to face the consequences of their actions and to understand the impact that it has had upon other people.
7.3 Restorative Justice can take place while criminal proceedings are ongoing, as part of a sentence after criminal proceedings have finished or as part of an out of court disposal. Any Restorative Justice will be led by a trained facilitator who will take your needs into consideration and deliver services in line with recognised quality standards.
7.4 Restorative Justice is voluntary – you do not have to take part, and both you and the offender must agree to it before it can happen. You can ask to participate in Restorative Justice at a time that is right for you or you may be asked to take part because
the offender has requested Restorative Justice. Even if both parties want to take part, it might not be appropriate and the
facilitator will make an assessment of this.
7.5 Appropriate measures will be put in place to make sure that anything you agree to take part in is safe; a trained facilitator will always be present during any meeting between you and the offender. If the offender has admitted guilt and is willing to participate in a meeting or communicate with you, you may be able to explain to the offender how the incident has affected you. You may then decide to seek an apology, or agree an activity that the offender has to undertake as part of making good the harm that has been done.
7.6 Restorative Justice is not the same as Community Resolution. Community Resolution is an informal police disposal that enables the police to deal more proportionately with low level crime and anti-social behaviour, outside the formal criminal justice system. Community Resolutions are primarily aimed at first time offenders where genuine remorse has been expressed, and where the victim has agreed that they do not want the police to take formal action.
Chapter 2 Adult Victims Duties on Service Providers, Section 7: Restorative Justice
7.1 Restorative Justice services are delivered, funded and commissioned by a number of service providers, including police forces, the National Probation Service, Her Majesty’s Prison Service, Youth Offending Teams, and Police and Crime Commissioners. While the service provider may vary depending on whether Restorative Justice is initiated by a victim or an offender, any service provider listed in paragraph 8 of the Introduction to this Code that delivers Restorative Justice must meet the requirements of this section. Where a service provider funds or commissions an organisation to deliver Restorative Justice services on their behalf, they must ensure that the organisation meets the requirements in this section.
7.2 The relevant service providers must ensure that they provide the entitlements in Section 7 of Chapter 2, Part A which fall to them.
7.3 First the police must pass the victim’s contact details to the organisation that is to deliver Restorative Justice services for victims to enable the victim to participate in Restorative Justice, unless asked not to do so by the victim.
7.4 Dependent on Restorative Justice being available in the relevant area, the service provider that delivers Restorative Justice services must:
- provide victims with full and impartial information on Restorative Justice and how they can take part. It must include information about the process of Restorative Justice, the potential outcomes, and the procedures for supervising the implementation of any outcome agreement that is reached between the victim and offender as a result of their participation;
- confirm the offender has acknowledged the basic facts of the case and is willing to participate in Restorative Justice;
- obtain the written consent of a victim who is willing to engage in Restorative Justice. Such consent must be free and informed, and may be withdrawn by the victim at any time. It is important that no one is pressured into taking part in Restorative Justice;
- be satisfied that Restorative Justice is in the interest of the victim, taking particular account of the sensitivities of the case and/or the vulnerability of the victim, particularly in cases involving sexual or domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking and child sexual exploitation;
- ensure victims’ safety by putting in place appropriate safeguards and consider the needs of the victim to make sure the victim is not re-victimised, particularly in the cases listed above;
- Where victims ask to participate in Restorative Justice, they should not be automatically precluded on the basis of the crime committed against them. However, the facilitator will consider a range of issues, including the risk of revictimisation, and may decide that it would not be appropriate for Restorative Justice to take place. Where a request to participate is made by an offender, particularly an offender convicted of one of the offences listed above, the offender’s motivation will be carefully examined and it is extremely unlikely that such a request would be progressed.
- make sure any Restorative Justice is delivered by a trained facilitator and is in line with recognised quality standards, such as the Restorative Service Standards.
- Make sure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the confidentiality of all discussions relating to, or that are part of, a Restorative Justice process. Such discussions must not be disclosed without the agreement of all parties, unless there is an overriding public interest or legal requirement to do so;
- keep victims’ personal data securely and separate from data relating to offenders;
- ensure that any outcome agreement reached between the victim and offender as a result of Restorative Justice is reached voluntarily, and keep the victim informed of the progress of the offender in meeting the outcome agreement.
Chapter 3 Entitlements for Children and Young People, Section 7: Restorative Justice
7.1 If you are a victim of a crime, Restorative Justice lets you talk about what happened with the offender – the person who carried out the crime. You and/or your close relatives and the offender can try to find ways to deal with the harm caused. This can help you, as the victim, to move on with your life and for the offender to understand what they did and how you felt about it.
7.2 Restorative Justice is voluntary – you do not have to take part. If you do want to take part you will be asked to agree this in writing. Both you and the offender must agree to it before it can happen. You can ask to take part in Restorative Justice at any point that you think would be helpful to you or you may be asked to take part because the offender has asked for Restorative Justice. Even if both you and the offender want to take part, it will only happen if someone who has been specially trained in Restorative Justice decides it is safe for you to take part. That person will be at any meeting with the offender.
7.3 If the offender is an adult, the police or other organisation that delivers Restorative Justice services for victims in your area must tell you, your parents or guardians about Restorative Justice, including how you, your parents or guardians can take part. This depends on what Restorative Justice services are provided in your local area.
7.4 If the offender is under the age of 18, the Youth Offending Team in your area must offer you, your parents or guardian the chance to take part in Restorative Justice where it is available. You can ask the police not to pass on your details to a Youth Offending Team if you do not want to take part in Restorative Justice.
Chapter 3 Children and Young People, Duties on Service Providers Section 7: Restorative Justice
7.1 The relevant service providers must fulfil the duties that fall to them in Chapter 2, Part B, Section 7, and Chapter 3, Part A, Section 7.