Restorative Justice: Helping to meet local needs

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Restorative Justice: Helping to meet local needs

Restorative justice (RJ) is a process whereby the parties with a stake in a specific offence collectively resolve how to deal with the aftermath of the offence. It brings together offenders, victims and the community to work out how to resolve the harm caused by an incident, and prevent a recurrence – including through reparation and rehabilitation. Victim participation is always voluntary, and offenders need to have admitted some responsibility for the harm they have caused. This guidance document presents advice on on how you can implement a RJ scheme and signposts sources of further support.

Title: Restorative Justice: Helping to meet local needs
Author: Office for Criminal Justice Reform
Date published: March 2005
Number of pages: 46
Availability: Download report PDF 442Kb

Advice for Police and Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnerships

RJ approaches are consistent with neighbourhood policing and increasing community engagement – both of which are focusses of government’s recent police agenda. RJ approaches have already been used by police and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) as a tool for neighbourhood policing in some areas. They offer victims or members of the wider community a real and visible way of being involved in resolving particular incidents and issues in a way that meets their individual needs and concerns. Restorative justice (RJ) approaches have also been shown to increase victim satisfaction and confidence in the CJS.

How can RJ approaches be used in policing?

It is open to Police Authorities to set their own local priorities alongside national policing priorities, and to include RJ approaches in them. Also, CDRPs or Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs) can include RJ approaches in their local strategies, promoting partnership working with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and Youth Offending Services (YOS), linking with the work of LCJBs.

RJ processes have been used as part of adult Cautioning practice in some forces for some time (see case study below), as well as being a mainstream method of delivering Reprimands and Final Warnings for juveniles.

RJ processes can also be used as part of the new Conditional Caution, introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. A Conditional Caution involves an offender agreeing to perform certain conditions as part of diversion from prosecution. RJ processes can be used to generate the conditions; or taking part in an RJ process can be one of the conditions.

Case study: Restorative Cautioning – Thames Valley Police

RJ processes have been the preferred means of delivering Cautions to adults (as well as, latterly, juvenile Reprimands and Final Warnings) in Thames Valley since 1998. Initial evaluation of the initiative suggests it delivered benefits to both offenders and victims. Most Cautions led to apologies that were usually seen as genuine expressions of remorse, and there were formal reparation agreements in around a third of Cautions, most of which were fulfilled. In addition, most participants believed that restorative Cautions helped offenders understand the effects of the offence and experience a degree of shame.

Further analysis found insufficient evidence to show that restorative Cautioning was more effective than traditional Cautioning in reducing resanctioning (defined as any conviction, Caution, Formal Warning, or Reprimand), but also no evidence that it was worse than traditional Cautions.

Neighbourhood policing and community safety

In addition to formal Cautioning and Conditional Cautioning, RJ approaches can also be used to resolve incidents of harm where no criminal sanction is possible – for example, in cases where:

  • there is insufficient evidence, or it is not in the public interest, to Caution or charge

  • the incident doesn’t involve a criminal offence, even though it has caused some distress or harm to the victim.

An RJ process in this situation – which could be brief and informal if that is all the participants need – can be a visible, positive response which builds community trust in policing, and while it will not count as a Sanction Detection, it may help with measured performance in other domains of the Policing Performance Assessment framework.

More generally, experience has shown that training in RJ approaches can be a helpful support for neighbourhood policing (see Devon and Cornwall case study below). The skills required to facilitate RJ processes, such as effective listening, empowering participants, looking for positive agreed solutions and clarity about responsibilities of participants, are applicable in a range of other situations, including dealing with anti-social behaviour, and preventing crime through effectively resolving minor incidents and disputes.


Case study: RJ training for neighbourhood policing – Devon and Cornwall Constabulary

Devon and Cornwall Constabulary has recently trained 333 of its Neighbourhood Beat Managers (NBMs) in the use of RJ approaches. They see the training for NBMs as providing a preventative, problem-solving approach to criminal and anti-social behaviour, and to conflicts within the community. They believe it will provide substantial gains in community capital, as well as helping to meet objectives across the whole of their work.

Critical to the success of the initiative is quality training and integration into mainstream processes. A bespoke accredited training package for delivery to NBMs, together with awareness training for first-line supervisors and senior managers, has been researched and commissioned, as part of a comprehensive strategy for roll-out. The strategy also includes provisional plans to expand training to the extended police family.

Practical challenges in implementing RJ processes have included ensuring effective risk and health and safety assessments for outcome agreement activities, and establishing a framework for monitoring their completion. There have been notable successes including one involving a traumatising assult on a security guard in a housing complex by a young resident. The RJ process enabled both offender and victim to move forward after the incident.

Tackling anti-social behaviour

RJ approaches have been successfully used to tackle anti-social behaviour in a number of ways:

  • As a form of best practice in arriving at the terms of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, so as to involve victims and the community, and help motivate perpetrators to comply with those terms;

  • They might also be used alongside Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) to encourage successful compliance with the order by introducing positive activities alongside the enforcement of prohibitions;

  • More formal opportunities for use of RJ processes might exist through an Individual Support Order (ISO) which could include a reparative condition. ISOs were introduced in May 2004 and can run alongside an ASBO for those aged 10–17;

  • In restorative community conferencing – convening meetings of victims, perpetrators and the wider community to address the anti-social behaviour (see case study box below);

  • Through Community Justice Panels, in which representatives of the local community affected by the behaviour, along with any personal victims, work with the perpetrator(s) to ensure the anti-social behaviour is addressed (see case study box below). This approach can also be adapted as a way of delivering restorative Cautions and Conditional Cautions.

Case studies: Restorative justice approaches to tackling anti-social behaviour

a) Restorative community conferencing – Thames Valley Police

A group of shopkeepers were outraged by the behaviour, over a long period of time, of a group of youths who congregated in their shopping centre. The police were called on numerous occasions; some youths were arrested and taken to court, others were Cautioned, but the nuisance only worsened.

Local police officers negotiated with the shopkeepers, some of the young people involved and the Youth Service, and organised a restorative community conference to address the effects of the youths’ behaviour and find solutions. The conference, attended by some thirty people, took the best part of a day, and ended in agreement on a code of behaviour that the young people undertook to enforce themselves. It also involved the Youth Service organising extra activities for local young people.

The behaviour of the young people in the shopping centre was much improved, and police call-outs much reduced. The shopkeepers were satisfied that their complaints had been taken seriously; the young people felt they had been treated fairly and their needs considered.

b) Restorative Community Justice Panel – Chard and Ilminster

Chard and Ilminster, in Somerset, have recently set up a restorative Community Justice Panel to improve confidence in criminal justice in the area, reduce offending and anti-social behaviour, and strengthen the ability of the local community to act against offenders. The key stakeholders include local Councils, Housing Associations, Police, Residents Associations and Chambers of Commerce.

The Panel, similar to a Youth Offending Panel for delivering Referral Orders in youth justice, is made up of volunteers from the local community. It tackles low-level anti-social behaviour by using local agencies and victims to draw up agreed changes to the offender’s behaviour. The agreement can take the form of an Acceptable Behaviour Contract. In many cases, conventional criminal justice procedures can be used should the agreements not be adhered to. There are plans to develop the panel as a way of delivering restorative Conditional Cautions.

While a formal evaluation of the project has yet to completed – it is still early days – early signs are promising. A recent case centred on an offence, initially reported to the police and found suitable for a Caution, which involved several members of a very small community and threatened to split it. The Panel met, an apology was offered and accepted, and the situation resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned, in a process that was highly visible to the local community.

How can RJ approaches contribute to police efficiency?

Some forces have decided to direct resources into RJ work in order to get the benefits it provides for victims, confidence, citizen focus and community engagement. While in some cases it may mean officers spending more time working directly with victims and offenders than they otherwise would do, this creates value for money gains where it effectively resolves what would have become recurrent problems. Where RJ processes are used as a diversion from prosecution, they are likely to save resources both for police and other criminal justice agencies. Time spent on RJ processes can be treated as incident-linked activity and therefore counted as a front-line activity.

Should police-run RJ processes always involve facilitating victim-offender communication – or are victim-absent approaches enough?

As explained in the first part of this guidance, RJ processes involve bringing into contact, either face to face or indirectly, offenders, victims and sometimes other community members involved in an incident, where there is a clearly identified perpetrator and victim of harm.

The full benefits of RJ approaches, especially for victims, are unlikely to be realised without victim/offender contact – so this should always be made available wherever possible. Where this is not possible (for example because there is no personal victim, or the victim decides not to participate), restorative skills and principles may still be usefully applied, for example by encouraging an offender to consider the effects of their behaviour on others and to take suitable reparative action. And, as explained above, restorative skills provide a useful support for neighbourhood policing more generally.

How can the wider police family get involved in delivering RJ approaches?

There is ample opportunity for RJ approaches in policing to be delivered by civilian police staff, or by other organisations working in partnership with the police, either voluntary or statutory – as well as by police officers. There is little evidence to suggest that police officers are more or less effective than civilian facilitators – experience suggests that what matters is effective training and supervision.

How can police support other agencies to deliver RJ approaches – including through data sharing?

For an RJ process to take place, the agency providing the service needs to be able to contact the victim to ask whether and how they want to participate. So police may have a key role in supporting RJ approaches in their area by passing on victims’ contact details to the agency providing the RJ service.

There is in fact an obligation on police to pass victim contact details to Youth Offending Teams and the Probation Service included in the Victims Code of Practice introduced by the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.

A number of areas have also put in place arrangements to pass victim details to voluntary sector RJ providers, in some cases using a data-sharing protocol. Such arrangements can be consistent with data protection rules, which should not prevent police supporting local provison of RJ in this way.

Further material

The document also contains guidance for:

  • Crown Prosecution Service

  • National Offender Management Service

  • Court and sentencers

It also provides step-by-step guidance on drawing up a local plan for implementing RJ schemes, covering

  • Devising a strategy

  • Finding delivery partners

  • Selecting a delivery model

  • Trainng and supervising staff

  • Devising the referal process

  • Providing for outcome agreements

  • Establishing perfomance monitoring

The full document alos provides further resources to support you in devising and managing a RJ scheme, including

  • Model risk register

  • Model monitoring framework

  • Model feedback forms

  • Planning communications guide

  • Model factsheet, Q&A briefing and article

  • Checklist of what resources a prison can provide

Getting a copy

Download Restorative Justice: Helping to meet local needs PDF 442Kb from the Office of Criminal Justice Reform website.


Last update: Monday, September 25, 2006

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