Source: (2000) paper to International Conference on Restorative Justice, Winchester, 28-31 March 2000.

The aim of this article is to test the principles of restorative justice by applying them to very serious cases. It will consider mainly those cases where the victim and the offender are acquainted with each other, which are some nine out of ten of reported cases (45 per cent acquaintances, 43 per cent intimates, in a Home Office study of 483 cases: Harris and Grace 1999: 6). This category largely overlaps with ‘simple rape’, where there are no aggravating circumstances such as violence, several assailants, or rape of a complete stranger (Goolsby 1990: 1183). Given the well known failings of the criminal justice system, especially in regard to victims of rape, should restorative justice be considered not as a supplement but as an alternative to the system? Very serious types of sexual offence will not be included, such as violent rape by a stranger, where if the man is convicted there is no question of anything but a custodial sentence, but most would agree that there should be a procedure in place for a woman to ask to make contact with him at a later stage, so that she can rid herself of her nightmares, as in the examples to be given later. This can also increase the man’s understanding of the seriousness of what he did, which will assist the treatment programme which should be available in prison. Nor will the question of child sexual abuse be considered here, although this too can be dealt with in a restorative way (Yantzi, 1998; Church Council 1996). (excerpt)