Restorative Justice face-to-face conferencing

A powerful intervention for both service users and their victims

Daniel grabbed Jessica at a bus stop on a Saturday night and punched her in the stomach before stealing her phone. Running away, he was caught by a group of men who called the police.

Jessica caught an infection from the attack and began taking tablets to cure it. The tablets reduced the effectiveness of her contraceptive pill, she became pregnant, and later suffered a miscarriage. Her relationship broke down, a close friendship ended after the friend blamed her for the evening’s events, and Jessica became depressed.

Understanding the consequences

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a voluntary intervention that results in contact between the perpetrator of a crime and their victim, provided both are willing and it is considered safe and appropriate to do so. In a three stage process, the service user (perpetrator) meets a Restorative Justice Facilitator for twelve sessions of three hours each. In these sessions, individuals are encouraged to think more about their offence, and to build empathy for their victims. RJ Facilitators work with them to better manage how they feel shame or embarrassment, and help them produce a written letter of apology. This may be sent to the victim if appropriate.

Daniel took part in the intervention, working with his Facilitators to write a letter to Jessica. While she was originally not keen to engage in the process, Jessica later agreed to receive the letter. She considered it to be self-centred, and that Daniel was using his mental health issues as an excuse to explain away his actions.

As a result, she was keen to meet him face-to-face. The RJ Facilitators worked hard to manage Jessica’s expectations and to prepare Daniel who was still struggling with mental health issues. From there, they initiated a face-to-face conference.

The power of closure

Restorative Justice is intended to help both the service user and their victim. The service user should be able to develop a greater awareness of the impact of their actions, while it can help the victim gain closure and hopefully draw a line under the incident, and to move on with their lives.

Meeting Daniel, Jessica was able to describe in detail what had happened to her after his actions that night. She explained her annoyance with his letter and refused to accept excuses for his behaviour. Daniel listened carefully, apologised to her in person and recognised the consequences of his violence. He said he thinks about his actions every single day.

“I have now got to the point of being able to support myself emotionally again”, Jessica said, saying that the process has given her confidence and overall she gained closure.

For Daniel, the process was incalculably valuable. Prison would have ruined his life, especially in the psychological state he was in. Restorative Justice helped him take responsibility for his actions, and begin to deal with his actions.

Reducing re-offending

London Community Rehabilitation Company’s key aim is to help reduce re-offending. The largest study into whether Restorative Justice helps achieve this was carried out by the UK government between 2001 and 2008. This £7m randomised control trial across seven years found that Restorative Justice reduced the frequency of reoffending by 14%, improving many service users’ ability to take another’s perspective and truly understand the power and effect of their actions.

Find out more

Contact RJ Intervention Manager, Liz Dixon for more information on our Restorative Justice interventions: elizabeth.dixon@londoncrc.org.uk

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