In September 2021, the APPG on Restorative Justice sought responses to the inaugural Inquiry into Restorative Practices in 2021/2022. The inquiry seeks to assess how the sector operates currently, and to identify any recommendations to improve access, awareness and capacity to deliver.
Catch22 is uniquely placed to provide evidence to this inquiry given our depth of experience across the criminal justice system – from within prison to probation and a breadth of victim support services. This means we have a unique perspective on the needs of victims and offenders.
Catch22’s victim services – Victim First, Beacon Victim Care and Nottinghamshire Victim CARE – all offer restorative justice. Victim First, for example, had 125 referrals and restorative conversations with 121 service users between August 2018 and January 2021.
Restorative justice is a very important process for the victim; it is essential for the healing process for the victim to air their feeling and have their voice heard even if there is no conclusion. Often victims are happy with the fact that they have been listened to even if the process hasn’t gone through with perpetrator. What this looks like is entirely different for each person and each case.
Information-sharing is a huge barrier for us. We don’t always feel that the police are working to support us with our restorative justice practice. Sometimes the police see the process as a ‘soft-touch’ approach but we firmly believe that it should run in parallel to the wider criminal justice process, regardless of sentencing, probation etc. We often have to spend a significant amount of time ‘selling’ the process to the police to encourage referrals and there is a common misunderstanding in some forces that if the offender is being charged then that they are not eligible for a referral. If we were able to have access to case management systems run by statutory services, or were provided with this information, then we would be able to reach more victims and offenders to enable the process to have the best, and widest impact.
Therefore, from this inquiry we wish to see:
- Better joined-up working, more involvement of victim services by the police and probation services. If any statutory agency is crossing paths with a victim, they should automatically involve a victim support service as standard. This helps with making sure victims are not denied the opportunity of restorative justice further down the line and would help the Ministry of Justice to capture more evidence and data on the impact of restorative justice.
- A responsibility on Police and Crime Commissioners to support the sharing of information. We know that there are a huge swathe of victims that could benefit from restorative justice but that we aren’t able to reach once their immediate victim support needs are met. We need to have permission and the right safeguards to contact a victim to offer restorative justice up to a year after the crime has taken place – which is often the most appropriate time for restorative justice to take place.
- The standardisation of the restorative justice process across the country, with the same process for referrals and data sharing.