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Crime and victims

Restorative justice

Restorative justice brings victims, offenders and communities together to decide on a response to a particular crime. It’s about putting victims’ needs at the centre of the criminal justice system and finding positive solutions to crime by encouraging offenders to face up to their actions.

A victim may request a restorative justice approach to:

  • make an offender realise how the crime has affected their life
  • find out information to help put the crime behind them – like why the offender targeted them
  • openly forgive the offender

Restorative justice: the benefits

Where ‘traditional justice’ is about punishing offenders for committing offences against the state, restorative justice is about offenders making amends directly to the people or organisations they have harmed.

We support restorative justice because it:

  • gives victims a greater voice in the criminal justice system
  • allows victims to receive an explanation and more meaningful reparation from offenders
  • makes offenders accountable by allowing them to take responsibility for their actions
  • builds community confidence that offenders are making amends for their wrong doing

Pilot studies indicate that restorative justice approaches can reduce post-traumatic stress disorder in victims and, in some cases, motivate offenders to turn away from a life of crime.

Restorative justice is not a soft option as many offenders find it extremely difficult to face up to the impact of their crimes.

What’s a restorative justice approach and when is it used?

Examples of restorative justice approaches include:

  • getting offenders to remove graffiti and repair property they’ve damaged
  • bringing shoplifters face to face with store managers to hear how shop theft affects others
  • getting offenders to write letters of apology

Perpetrators and victims are brought into contact through:

  • direct mediation – where victim, offender, facilitator and possibly supporters for each party meet face to face
  • indirect mediation – where victim and offender communicate through letters passed on by a facilitator
  • conferencing - involving supporters for both parties
  • wider community – this is similar to direct mediation, except the process focuses on the family as a support structure for the offender (this is particularly useful with young offenders)

Restorative justice approaches can be used for a wide range of incidents, from minor anti-social behaviour like graffiti to serious crimes like assault and robbery. Victim participation is always voluntary, and offenders need to have admitted some responsibility for the harm they have caused.

How we’re encouraging restorative justice

We are committed to putting victims at the centre of the criminal justice system and have introduced a restorative justice strategy that involves:

  • building more restorative justice processes into the criminal justice system – we’ve introduced restorative police cautioning , and we’re aiming to offer 75% of all victims of youth crime participation in restorative processes
  • developing an evidence base for the use of restorative justice – we’re funding a number of pilots on topics like the relationship between restorative justice and prevention of re-offending
  • building quality assurance processes – we’ve developed helpful guidelines for people working in restorative justice



See also

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