3. RJC also welcomes the duty on the police to offer restorative justice to victims where such a service is provided by the police. Where the restorative service is provided by a partner agency the police should inform victims about the service and refer them, but not be required to make the offer of restorative justice, as the actual offer of restorative justice should only be made by a trained restorative justice facilitator working to national standards. In many areas restorative services are led by agencies other than the police. We therefore propose that the duty to offer restorative justice be amended to require the police to refer victims to the relevant restorative justice service, whether this service is provided by the police, or by a partner agency.
4. In our response to Getting it Right for Victims and Witnesses the RJC expressed a concern that a right to ask for restorative justice subject to resources did not amount to a new entitlement for victims if it did not affect the response that victims are entitled to receive.7 The publication of the corresponding duties relating to the entitlements in the Victims Code provides some clarity with respect to how victims will be treated where a restorative service is available to them. We would welcome further clarity with respect to how victims will be treated where no restorative service is available locally – as this is still the experience for too many victims, particularly victims of adult offenders and victims of more serious offences.
5. In our experience victims have been poorly treated when requesting information about restorative justice from services who have little or no awareness about what restorative justice is, when it is suitable or whether it is available in their local area. Victims can be made to feel as though their request is odd, an inconvenience, misinformed or even immoral (for example where relatives of victims of homicide have made the request).
6. Amending the victim’s entitlement to ask for restorative justice (subject to it being available) to a right to be informed about the availability of restorative justice in their area would help address the poor treatment of victims who have requested access to restorative justice from the police.
7. We expect that the majority of police forces may already have received sufficient restorative justice awareness training to fulfill this duty. However, there is a need for the police to be supplied with accurate, up-to-date information about the availability of restorative justice in their local area and to be able to provide accurate information and signposting as to what is available for victims of more serious offences, at later stages of the CJS.
8. The availability of restorative justice is complex as it is affected by a range of considerations including the stage of the criminal justice system the request has been made, how the offence was handled by the justice system (ie whether or not the offence was prosecuted, and what type of sentence imposed) and the wide range of agencies potentially offering restorative justice services locally (including probation, prisons, youth offending teams, neighbourhood justice panels, charities, local mediation services, schools, local authorities, care-homes, housing associations). Therefore the police will need to understand exactly what is available in their area. The RJC provides an online ‘Restorative Services Map’ which could be a useful sign-posting tool for victims and the police.
We therefore propose that the entitlement to ask for restorative justice where it is available is amended to a right to be informed about the availability of restorative justice locally.