Geoff Emerson, restorative justice manager for Thames Valley Probation, said the service was working with the Victim Support charity on the project.

"The government wants to be able to offer RJ (restorative justice) to victims at different points in the criminal justice system, but this is a way of enabling volunteers to come forward saying that it's something they want to do," he said.

"Up to now we've not been able to do that, we've not had the funds to do that.

"This is a way of getting to see what the take-up rate will be."

He said about 33% of victims offered the service so far had chosen to have a face to face meeting, while about 50% had chosen indirect contact, for example through a letter.

"The evidence, which shows where victims get really good benefits, come from offences of burglary or violence and public order offences, but more importantly it's where a person has been more personally affected," Mr Emerson added.

"It's enabling the person affected to have their say and it puts them into a position of some degree of power, it empowers them to change things and move on."

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