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A Business Case for Restorative Justice and Policing

July 13, 2010

… The use of Restorative Justice within UK police forces is increasing at a significant pace.  In addition there is growing national interest in its application to develop both a victim-focused but low-bureaucratic disposal for low level offending and as a critical tool within Neighbourhood Policing to assist in problem-solving and meeting community expectations.

Eight forces are currently piloting the Youth Restorative Disposal.  Ten forces are taking part in the Restorative Approaches in Neighbourhoods (RAiN) programme and at least another six forces have developed the application of RJ outside of these programmes.

 In excess of 6,000 police officers and PCSOs have received training in RJ interventions as well as a significant number of volunteers and partner staff.

RJ is now being utilized as a low level disposal within the CJS, as a problem solving tool by Neighbourhood Policing Teams, within schools, to settle long-term neighbour disputes, as a post-sentence element of reducing re-offending programmes and as a quick and effective means of tackling those crimes and incidents which have a disproportionate impact upon communities.

…It is the involvement of communities that sets aside the current development of RJ within policing from those that have gone before.  The new paradigm of Community Restorative Justice build upon the role of local neighbourhood officers and staff to understand local values, priorities and needs and equips them with a new flexibility to design interventions to meet them.  This enables police and communities to work together on behalf of victims and the community itself, turning conflict into co-operation enabling the achievement of real and lasting resolutions.

RJ forces have recognized the Neighbourhood Policing Team engagement will contribute little in terms of either creating strong and safe communities or higher levels of confidence, if we continue to set performance expectations which limit the ability of our teams to police communities according to their needs and values as opposed to those enshrined within corporate or national targets.  The application of RJ has set a clear agenda for public services; invite people to get engaged, support their involvement and engage them in proper conversations, and then levels of citizen activity will increase.

RJ is not policing done to people but returns to the ideals of policing as part of a true community partnership.  It is clear that done well RJ cannot be done to or even for victims it must be done with them.  RAiN forces, led by Norfolk, are now training community volunteers in the use of restorative justice, to both act as community ‘victims’ but excitingly to organise and administer restorative justice themselves – communities taking responsibility for and working with the police to deal with their ‘own’ offenders and the way that justice is applied.

The true value of RJ is yet to be fully realized.  RJ offers a holistic approach to rule-breaking and wrong-doing.  It can be utilised to deal with simple and complex offending, as a diversionary tool or as a means for offenders to understand the consequences of their actions, it can solve problems yet heal communities suffering from the pain of harm causing.  Where delivered in conjunction with schools there is a consistency in how young people are dealt with at school and then on the streets removing the sometimes contradictions which can exist.  The development of Restorative Communities is gathering pace.

… There continues to be significant senior resistance to the acceptance of utilizing RJ as an effective means to deal with crimes.  This is driven by the Home Office reluctance to categorise an RJ intervention as a crime detection which is ‘sanctioned’ for official crime figures.  Forces which are very performance focused or for whom ‘sanction detection’ performance is seen as a key objective are reluctant to see approximately 3% of their ‘detections’ lost to ‘unsanctioned’ RJ outcomes.  Sanction detections include cautions, final warnings and some fixed penalties.  Allowing RJ interventions to become equally recordable would do much to remove significant barriers to some forces reticence to developing RJ.

… Strong champions and leaders will only emerge where RJ interventions and approaches are celebrated and promoted within a justice framework but as an equal partner and not as a quirky bolt-on.

Read the full article.


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