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Good practice Manual: Restorative justice – Support and counselling for crime victims.

Aug 20, 2013

From the Introduction to the Manual:

As the name implies, the Restorative Justice – Support  and Counselling for Crime Victims project was carried out under the philosophical umbrella of Restorative Justice theories and practice. This is not the fi rst time the project partners are encountering the topic and concept of Restorative Justice. One could say that the Czech Probation and Mediation Service has restorative justice in its job description, and the Service is one of its greatest proponents. The Association of Citizen Advice Centres and its centres, the establishment of which in the 1990s was strongly inspired by British citizen advice centres, has been working with the Probation and Mediation Service for nearly eight years and is making an important contribution towards the development of Restorative Justice principles in projects focused on crime victims.

With over a hundred years of history and a recent track record of working with the Czech Republic on several successful partner projects carried out with the Probation and Mediation Service and Czech NGOs, the National Probation Service for England and Wales is also being inspired and “influenced” by Restorative Justice programmes and principles. 

In the past, probation services always solely addressed criminal off enders. Despite their strong diff erences, both the Anglo-Saxon and the Continental justice systems have aimed to “capture, try and convict” off enders; the crime victim was always ignored. This opinion and practice is still very prevalent in Europe and abroad. 

This practice is rightly criticised not only within the justice systems, academically and by NGOs that have long been concerned with protecting and assisting victims, but also by the “greater” public. Of all the NGOs one must mention the European Forum for Victim Services. Established in Stockholm in 1990, it now operates under the name Victim Support. 

Primarily due to the Restorative Justice movement, over the past 30 years this situation has gradually started to change. The theory-based “concept” of restorative justice, which has called crime a social incident that aff ects all of the participants in the “story” – not just the state and not just the off ender, but primarily the crime victim, their loved ones and often also their fellow residents in the place where they live, their community – has brought a true revolution in how people think. As said by Howard Zehr, one of the “fathers” of this inspiring and refreshing theory, it is literally putting on a new pair of glasses, “changing lenses”, in an effort to better understand the crime incident.

...The European Forum for Restorative Justice, the most important European NGO in the field, must also be mentioned. In 2010 the Council of Europe approved new recommendations: European Probation Rules, which recommend the use of Restorative Justice principles and programmes in practice, including other forms of assistance for crime victims. CEP, the European Organisation for Probation, also supports the development of Restorative Justice programmes and principles in practice in member countries. 

Our joint project also reflects developments in recent years as described above and aims to present topics and experiences from good practice which, in cooperation with nongovernmental partners, can unhesitatingly shift the Probation Service away from its traditional “offender” model, dismantling or at least shaking the myth that the crime victim’s story is solely for specially and extensively trained victim experts who are the only ones who have the knowledge and specialised skill to be concerned with the victim’s story. 

The Good Practice Manual presents experiences of good practice from cooperation between public and non-governmental organisations, experiences of good practice where the Probation Service can organise and implement counselling and assistance for crime victims: experiences of good practice in supporting and developing cooperation between public and non-governmental organisations at the local level to the benefit of crime victims, and experiences of good practice in motivating and inspiring police officers, public prosecutors and judges in supporting and getting involved in similar activities.

Download the full manual.

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