Breaking the Cycle – the Government’s response published on effective Restorative Justice Practices

                                      By    Bevan & Assoc, London


Breaking the Cycle – the Government’s response published

On 21 June 2011 the Ministry of Justice published the Government’s response to the consultation responses received to the sentencing green paper Breaking the Cycle. Although some areas of proposed policy have changed  – for example in relation to the additional discount for early guilty pleas – the message on restorative justice remains strong. 

In relation to increasing community involvement and ownership of criminal justice, the paper says:
“(we will) increase community involvement in justice so that local people help to find resolutions to low level crime that reflect community concerns and interests. This will include continuing to test Neighbourhood Justice Panels to bring local volunteers and criminal justice professionals together, using restorative and reparative approaches, to decide what action should be taken to deal with some types of low level crime and disorder.”
In a section headed ‘Recognising and repairing the harm caused to victims’ the paper says:
“We will ensure that victims have a more central role in the criminal justice system. Victims should have an opportunity to explain the harm that a crime has caused so that sentences can be tailored to ensure that offenders make amends. There are inconsistencies in the way in which victims are currently offered the chance to make a Victim Personal Statement – the primary mechanism for victims to inform the court about the impact the crime has had on them. We want to make sure that this opportunity is routinely offered to victims and will seek views on options to make this happen through the forthcoming victims’ consultation.”
Turning specifically to restorative justice, the Government’s response says:
“Many victims say the best way harm can be repaired is through participation in restorative justice. We are proposing using restorative justice interventions at each stage of the justice system. Most responses to the consultation welcomed our emphasis on greater use of restorative justice as long as it is used appropriately, interventions are of sufficiently high quality and there are sufficient safeguards in place for victims. 
We will work with the Home Office to develop a framework that supports local practitioners to develop and deliver effective, best practice restorative justice approaches at all stages of the criminal justice system. We will also continue to develop the evidence base for, and practice of restorative justice including by: 
improving its use in community resolution as part of responses to better tackle low-level crime; 
encouraging its use as part of or in addition to out-of-court disposals; 
formally embedding the role of victims in restorative justice at each stage of the process; 
improving the advice sentencers receive about pre-sentence restorative justice practices and how they take restorative justice into consideration in court, including through pre-sentence reports and Victim Personal Statements; 
establishing guidance and minimum standards for youth offending teams, probation and prisons for undertaking more and better restorative justice practices, both pre- and post-sentence; and 
seeking to make the referral order a more restorative disposal for young offenders by increasing the training that is given to referral order panel members, removing the current restrictions on the repeated use of the order and allowing courts greater flexibility to give a young person who is in court for the first time, and pleads guilty, a conditional discharge as an alternative to a referral order." 
Crispin Blunt MP is giving the keynote address at the launch of the RJC Practitioner Register on 13th September. To book your place now please email admin@restorativejustice.org.uk
More information on the Government response to the Breaking the Cycle consultation including a download of the document are available on the Ministry of Justice website.

22nd Jun 2011 | RJC

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