...the Ministry of Justice has allocated £29m to police and crime commissioners in the last two years to set up restorative justice services across the country.
And yet it’s not working.
Money has bought superb training for facilitators and practitioners, and much greater awareness of the benefits to victim and offender. But more money has not brought us to a tipping point, where victims know what restorative justice can give them and in consequence actively seek to meet their offender in conferences which are being conducted daily all over the UK....
we need a victim-led sales unit in the Ministry of Justice, which under Michael Gove has become, unexpectedly for some, a centre for really creative thinking. This small motivated group could be responsible for bringing victims to the table. It should have access to cases in a specific area and be able to contact both victims and offenders alike. It should be able to triage the cases in order to create an efficient throughput and ensure the highest probability of success. A central group responsible for conference creation and accountable. The group would concentrate initially in a set area and once successful could be rolled out nationally.
In parallel, the government should enshrining the right to restorative justice in a Victim’s Bill of Rights. This would show the victim that the system is really on their side and ensure that restorative justice was available to all.
Restorative justice doesn’t need any new public money. It needs an imaginative leap to better manage the commitment they have already made. Charitable institutions are all too aware of the restorative justice issues and, frustrated by the lack of coordination to increase the number of conferences, I am sure they would fund this essential team. The people already exist, fully trained and they could hit the ground running.
I am afraid that unless something is done to increase the number of conferences restorative justice will end up in the pile of great ideas that turned out to be impossible to implement. Then people like me and you will be left to fend for ourselves when the next burglar surprises us in our own homes.