All Cambridgeshire victims of crime can meet offenders in re-launched Restorative Justice scheme

A terrified young woman in an underground parking garage being followed by a sinister man - photo by Cambridgeshire police
A terrified young woman in an underground parking garage being followed by a sinister man - photo by Cambridgeshire police
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All victims of crime now have the opportunity to meet those who have offended against them as part of a re-launched scheme.

Restorative Justice (RJ) was introduced in Cambridgeshire in April 2011 as a method of dealing with low-level crime, often young, first-time offenders.

This way of dealing with a crime, as an alternative to formal prosecution, is still available to officers and is called “community remedy.”

However, RJ is no longer an alternative to prosecution. It can now be offered to victims of any type of crime and at any point in the legal process, including after sentence.

RJ gives a victim the chance to meet an offender in a controlled and safe environment, to talk about the harm that has been caused and to find a way to repair that harm. It is completely voluntary for both parties.

RJ lets victims have their say, allowing them to ask questions and helps them to move on with their lives. On the other side it can help offenders recognise the impact of what they have done and allow them to make amends.

RJ is an entitlement under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime and is managed by the police-led Victims’ Hub, which has just celebrated its first birthday.

Detective Chief Inspector Dominic Human said: “Restorative Justice is part of the force’s committment to putting victims at the heart of everything it does.

“Many victims may feel it is not for them but others may welcome the opportunity to speak to the person who has offended against them.

“Statistics show that 85 per cent of victims who participate in RJ feel it is a positive experience and are more likely to be able to move on, while offenders are less likely to offend again – so it’s a win-win situation.

“It can be used for any crime and at any stage but it is entirely the victim’s decision and the offender must accept guilt.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Graham Bright said: “It is important that the victims of crime are offered a range of support options to help them cope and recover from their experience.

“For some, the chance to meet the offender can be a great benefit as they struggle to answer the question “Why me?”

“It can also have a big effect on the offender as they come to realise the full impact their crime has had on another person. I have been moved by the stories of where Restorative Justice meetings have taken place and the benefits that have resulted on both sides.”

With International Restorative Justice Week coming up in November, Victims’ Minister Mike Penning said: “Restorative justice gives victims a voice. It gives them the opportunity to face their offender, ask questions and take back control.

“Many victims of crime get to see sentences handed down in the courts, but it is not always enough to help them move on with their lives.

“We are dedicated to making sure restorative justice is available for every victim of crime who wants it, at all stages of the criminal justice system.”

Statistics provided by the police include:

. Confidence in local policing increases from 55 per cent to 72 per cent as a result of using RJ

· There is a reduction in re-offending by up to 27 per cent

· There was 33 per cent less repeat offending among offenders coming out of prison after restorative justice than without it, and 55 per cent less offending among violent offenders supervised in the community

· For every £1 spent on delivering RJ, up to £8 can be saved in lowering costs of re-offending.

There are various difference forms of RJ which can be used to suit the particular circumstances. These range from a meeting between the victim and offender to conferences involving family, partner agencies and the wider community.

Anyone who would like to inquire about RJ should call 0800 7816818 or email restorativejustice@cambs.pnn.police.uk

There is also more information, including online videos and the different models of RJ, on the force website at http://www.cambs-police.co.uk/victims/rj/.