The aim is to bring victims and offenders together to repair the harm caused by crime. Supporters say it helps victims move on from crime and reduces rates of reoffending.
The process usually involves a face-to-face meeting between victim and offender, contact through a facilitator or communication in writing. It can lead to offenders replacing stolen property, repairing damage, and/or undertaking charity or voluntary work.
Victims explain the often traumatic effect a crime has had on them. In turn, offenders realise the impact of what they have done, and are encouraged to take action to repair the harm caused. It is in addition to, rather than instead of, any criminal sentence.
The scheme is being operated by the charity Victim Support in co-operation with the non-profit company Restorative Solutions. Among the participating crown courts are Preston, Cardiff, Lincoln, Truro, Wood Green, Croydon, Bristol and Manchester.
The programme will deal with acquisitive and violent crimes including burglary, robbery, higher level theft and assault cases. It will not involve sexual offences or domestic violence, because such cases require a higher level of expertise.
Victim support volunteers trained as restorative justice facilitators will approach defendants who have pleaded guilty at court.
Gary Stephenson, chief executive of Restorative Solutions, said: "The essence of our work is to help establish programmes that work for victims, are delivered safely by trained practitioners, and which reduce reoffending and, thus, future victims.
"We can ensure that victims are provided with the opportunity to have their voice heard in the sentencing process through a restorative approach."
Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, said: "Many victims want to make sure their offender doesn't go on to commit another crime. Where restorative justice has the victim and repair of harm as its focus, we know it can genuinely help people to move on and recover from the effects of crime – and in turn prevent reoffending.
"We strongly believe that all victims should be offered the opportunity to take part in restorative justice if they want to, and welcome the overall commitment to bolstering and increasing services from the government as a real step forward."
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