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Actions and consequences: How restorative justice can help victims move on

Nov 25, 2013

from the article by Javed Khan:

If you were a victim of crime, would you want to meet the offender?

What would you say to them?

A burglary victim might, for example, want to talk about the inconvenience, the hassle of sorting out the mess and replacing what has been stolen.

They could spell out that some things - just objects to an outsider - are completely irreplaceable, and how sentimental value outweighs any financial cost.

But we all know that actions have unintended consequences, and burglary isn't just about what's been taken, it's about what's been left behind too.

As so many victims tell my charity when they come to us for support, the real impact is far more profound, and traumatic, than material loss.

It's waking up in the night at the slightest noise and wondering, is there someone downstairs? Or the feeling of dread in the stomach as they turn the key in the door - could someone have broken in again? 

Fear that lingers as they go about day-to-day life, long after windows and locks are repaired, and insurance claims filed.

Put simply, I doubt that any burglar really appreciates the sense of violation that comes from having your home and personal space so ruthlessly and thoughtlessly intruded upon.

If you're a victim, you might want to try and make that offender understand - in some small way - the real effect that their actions have had upon you and your family. It might help you move on, and it might help them not do it again.

That's why Victim Support believes well planned restorative justice (RJ) can be so beneficial for victims.

...As I've said before in this blog, of course victims want to see offenders punished for what they've done. But making sure they understand the consequences of their actions, is important to them too. And we know that RJ can be an effective way of breaking the cycle of reoffending.

Whether it is face to face conferencing, repairing damage, or reparation to the wider community through voluntary work, done properly, and led by what the victim wants and needs, RJ undoubtedly gives victims a more personal resolution to their case. It empowers them as decision-makers in a criminal justice system where they so often feel side-lined.

I'm very pleased that the new Victims Code for the first time gives victims the right to be informed about the RJ options open to them in their area.

Add to this the new funding for RJ that is being given to police and crime commissioners and charities, then we are seeing that a welcome change is now backed with money and has a real chance of improving outcomes on the ground.

To those who suggest RJ is a soft option, offenders who have had to face up to the consequences of their actions so directly, may disagree. I certainly think anything that challenges the attitudes of persistent criminals must be right.

Read the full article.

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