FACE-TO-FACE meetings between offenders and their victims has given criminals a better understanding of the human impact of their crime.
That is the verdict of the Cheshire Police Authority on ‘restorative justice’ which they say reduces the probability of re-offending.
A restorative justice ‘conference’ enables victims and offenders to meet with a trained mediator to agree a solution. They may agree that an apology will suffice or that the offender works in the community as payback such as graffiti removal, repair of damage or return any property stolen. It is a voluntary process which both parties must agree to.
At a Police Authority meeting last week, Moira Chapman, lead member for community engagement at a Police Authority, said: “Restorative justice provides an opportunity for the victim, the offender, their families and representatives of the community to be directly involved in responding to the harm caused by a crime or incident.
“This brings communities together, gives people power and, evidence suggests, reduces the chance that the offender will re-offend.”
The use of restorative justice in Cheshire began in October 2007 in 12 towns across Cheshire, Halton and Warrington.
A report presented to the authority showed the progress of 56 offenders who have taken part in restorative justice. Some 82% said they felt they understood the affect their behaviour had on the victim and that they were less likely to offend again. The same percentage agreed their perception of the police had also improved through the restorative approach.
Just more than half of the victims who took part said that before restorative justice, they felt traumatised by the incident and only 45% felt safe in their community. Following the conference, three quarters felt able to put the incident behind them and those that felt safe in their community rose to 73%.
A significant 78% of victims said that the restorative justice approach was better than traditional methods, 91% felt they would recommend it to a friend and all were happy with the outcomes of the conference and what the offender was asked to do, while 72% felt their perception of the police had improved following their participation in the restorative process.
Anna Collins, Cheshire Police Authority engagement manager, said: “Since the first 56 results, it has been rolled out across the county – all the neighbourhood policing units have been given the green light.
“It tends to be minor crimes, the kind of thing where community payback can be done to put right the damage done or where somebody would be satisfied with an apology.
“It’s showing good results. It’s nice that both parties hear both sides of the story.”