Pollard, Charles. Working Together for A Common Goal: The Need for a Restorative Justice Campaign

Sir Charles addresses the need for a problem statement that speaks not only to restorative justice advocates, but to policymakers and the general public as well. He does this by drawing from his experience in policing and law enforcement and by the success his police force has had in incorporating restorative conferencing into the day-to-day conduct of police business

By Sir Charles Pollard1

It is most important to start the process of working out what will be needed, in the future, to make restorative justice the dominant ideology within criminal justice.

Whilst I'm happy to leave to others the job of working up in detail how a criminal justice system based on restorative justice might look, what I do know is this: I've been a police officer for 36 years, including 11 years as Chief Constable of one of Britain's largest police forces, and in that time I've become increasingly ill at ease with the way our traditional Anglo-Saxon criminal justice systems adopt an ever more adversarial approach, emphasizing legal technicalities over substance, and retribution over sentences that reduce re-offending.  This approach is also totally failing to address the needs of those most affected by crime, namely crime victims, their families and local communities.

In recent years a new approach to the crime problem has started to emerge, based on methods of conflict resolution that pre-date our so-called 'traditional' criminal justice systems.  This new approach has come to be known as restorative justice, and all the evidence is that it can, when done properly and backed-up by other relevant intervention programmes, reduce re-offending significantly, provide satisfaction for victims of crime to a very high level, and motivate communities to take ownership of the problems that generate crime in their localities.

In addition to these huge gains, moreover, restorative justice encourages all those involved in criminal justice to work together to a common goal.  As John Braithwaite noted during the international conference on restorative justice held in England earlier this year, research evidence suggests that whilst court orders - whether to compensate victims, do community service, join rehabilitation programmes, or otherwise - are legally enforceable, it is the voluntary agreements entered into via restorative justice that are more likely to be complied with.  Restorative justice builds, as John puts it, 'superior motivation to actually do what is decided in criminal justice processes'.  In short, restorative justice could serve as the professional 'glue' which brings cohesion and a much more responsible sense of purpose to all who work or are involved in criminal justice, including the judiciary, police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, court staff, corrections agencies and social services.

Nurturing this unique quality of restorative justice should enable it to start moving from a position on the sidelines of mainstream criminal justice, to one where it serves as a fundamental underlying philosophy.  Central to this there will need to be the development of a strategy in which criminal justice is transformed from being an adversarial, process-based 'conveyor belt', focusing simplistically on closely defined offences, into a far more inclusive and fair method of conflict resolution that meets the needs of all those involved.

I fully support the need for a forum enabling those committed to change to work together and discuss how the new approach is to be promoted and implemented.  Restorative justice has the potential to reform criminal justice in Western democratic societies as never before.  I hope that the discussion and debate facilitated by the 'Campaign' site will make a significant contribution towards this goal.

[1] Sir Charles Pollard is the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, the largest non-metropolitan police service in England and Wales, covering a population of 2.1 million people.  The force faces all the major challenges associated with policing modern society, exaggerated by its close proximity to London.  Since 1995 Sir Charles has been a leading advocate of Restorative Justice, pioneering the holding of restorative conferences between victims, offenders and community representatives in place of the traditional police caution when dealing with young offenders.  These developments in Thames Valley have strongly influenced government policy, with Restorative Justice principles being adopted as a key element of the reformed national Youth Justice system now being rolled out across the UK.  In fact, he was appointed as one of ten Board Members of the Youth Justice Board for England & Wales in 1998, which oversees the youth justice system of England & Wales.


Sir Charles will be leaving Thames Valley Police on 1 February 2002.  He will continue with his work on Youth Restorative Justice from outside the police service, and undertake consultancy work on leadership and management in the public sector, and continue and expand his work with the Youth Justice Board.  He will also continue his work on Restorative Justice with a number of organizations, in the UK.

Created by: james
Last modified: 2005/08/26 06:09:43.374000 US/Eastern