This is the biggest development for restorative justice in England and Wales since legislation introducing referral order panels to the youth justice system in 1999.
The Restorative Justice Council, with our partner organisations including the Prison Reform Trust and the Criminal Justice Alliance, has campaigned for legislation for over two years. Restorative justice at the pre-sentence stage formed half the cases in the Ministry of Justice/Shapland research. In addition to the well known findings in relation to victim benefits and reductions in re-offending, the research showed 72% of victims said that RJ came at ‘about the right time’, whilst 22% said they wished it had been offered to them sooner. The judiciary welcomed pre-sentence restorative justice as it provided them with additional information on which to base sentencing decisions.
A letter to The Times in April 2011 signed by 30 VIPs called for new legislation for pre-sentence restorative justice; hundreds of professionals and members of the public have also signed our online petition. Many RJC members joined the RJC in supporting the call for legislation through responding to the recent consultation. We are particularly grateful to members of the House of Lords who tirelessly put the case for legislation during debates on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.
The RJC will work closely with the Ministry of Justice, the Magistrates Association and the Sentencing Council to ensure the legislation is implemented and that the judiciary receive guidance about which cases should be deferred for RJ to be offered (primarily cases with a personal victim and the offender has pleaded guilty); and how to factor participation in RJ in at point of sentence, based on the precedents already set in case law and international experience.