The restorative justice process allows victims the chance to tell offenders the real impact of the crime, to get answers to their questions and to receive an apology.

It also gives the perpetrators a chance to understand the impact of their actions and to do something to repair the harm they have caused.

However, Dr Brooks, who was due to present his research at an international conference this week, suggests restorative justice could help to further reduce re-offending rates and improve public confidence at a lower cost to taxpayers, and should be used more widely.

He proposes it could be extended by adding a greater punishment element, whereby victims have some power over the offender’s sentence, including suspended prison sentences.

Dr Brooks said: “Public confidence in offender punishment can be improved by providing victims with a greater voice in the sentencing decisions.

“If we permit victims, in line with magistrates, to have some power over the offender’s sentence, including suspended prison sentences, restorative conferences could be used more widely and could help to further reduce re-offending.”

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