Questions and Answers
Who or what is TVRJS?
Thames Valley Restorative Justice Service (TVRJS) is part of the Thames Valley Partnership – a registered charity funded and supported by local authorities, local businesses, charitable grants and government agencies. We are currently funded by the Office of the Police and Crime commissioner (OPCC) for the Thames Valley.
What type of offences is it appropriate for?
Suitability for Restorative Justice is judged solely on whether the process will be safe and whether those affected wish to participate. In depth risk assessments are prepared in relation to face-to-face meetings (RJ conferences). In those cases where a conference is not feasible, or the parties do not wish to meet, alternative methods of communication, such as a letter of apology, will be arranged with the consent of the parties.
Restorative Justice may be initiated by a decision of the Court, in which cases specific criteria in terms of offence type and seriousness will be applied.
Any victim of crime who requests RJ will be able to take part whatever the level of seriousness. How the case will progress will depend on whether the offender is caught and convicted and at what stage the victim makes the request. It is not usually possible to undertake Restorative Justice on a voluntary basis during a contested court process.
I was harmed by a crime and the perpetrator has been given Restorative Justice as part of their sentence…do I have to take part?
Courts are most likely to make use of Restorative Justice in relation to the sentencing process.
Offenders instructed to go through RJ by the court must have admitted their crime and they must also decide whether to participate. If an offender is assessed as suitable, victims will be contacted by a Restorative Justice facilitator who will help guide them through what the process entails and what they might expect from it. You will then be able to make an informed decision on whether you think RJ might be beneficial for you. There is no obligation for you to participate in a Restorative Justice process.
It is important to make clear that Restorative Justice is not used as an alternative to a sentence and offenders who agree to undertake Restorative Justice and fail to do so will also have this taken into account.
I’ve committed an offence and the person I harmed has asked for RJ. Do I have to take part?
Restorative Justice can only take place with the agreement of all participants. Talking to a Restorative Justice facilitator will help you make an informed decision on whether you think Restorative Justice might be beneficial and does not commit you in any way.
Why on earth do victims want to meet their offenders?
For victims, a crime often has deeply felt consequences. Meeting the person responsible can be an anxious time for victims but can also be a huge step forward in coming to terms with what has happened. It can be immensely challenging for offenders as it confronts them with the personal impact of their crime, on the victim. RJ brings the parties together in a safe environment to talk about the harm that has been caused and find a way to repair that harm.
Victims are able to ask questions of the offender about what happened and why. This not only enables them to get answers to questions from the only person who can tell them, but also can be a very empowering experience. Receiving an apology, or an explanation as to why you or your house were targeted can be reassuring and enable the victim to move on and feel safer. RJ can be nerve-wracking for victims. They are given full preparation and support from the RJ facilitator and, if they wish, by their family and friends.
How does the process start?
There are various points where the RJ process can start; from an order by the court to a request from a victim or offender. Whatever the starting point, the victim and offender are referred to a facilitator – a specialist in RJ who will act as a guide and contact point throughout the process. The facilitator will meet with the victim and the offender separately to gain an understanding of what has taken place and how those involved have been affected. The facilitator will explain in detail what is involved, and support the victim and offender to make an informed choice about whether, or how, to go forward. If an RJ process is chosen, the facilitator meets again with the victim and offender separately to begin the preparation work.
How are we kept informed about progress?
It is the facilitator’s role to ensure that all participants are kept informed about progress; they are the key contact point throughout the process.
Is it possible to meet people who have been through RJ?
We have a team of RJ victim ambassadors who have been through the process and who visit groups to explain how extremely beneficial RJ has been to them. Two of our ambassadors share their story on the video found in case studies.
Is it safe to participate?
Safety is of paramount concern in the Restorative Justice process. Your personal information will be safeguarded and you will never be invited to take part in any element of the process unless you are entirely comfortable with it.
What are the risks involved?
In our experience there is no risk of violence or threats during or following an Restorative Justice process. The preparation process can cause a degree of anxiety, especially just before a meeting, but all our participants would say that this is more than outweighed by the sense of relief, reassurance, hope and increasing self-confidence generated by the meeting.
Meetings have only been unsuccessful (and not in the Thames Valley area) where there has been an irresolvable dispute about the facts of what happened. This has led to people feeling that the meeting was unsatisfactory and a waste of time. We avoid this by not proposing a meeting in such cases and using an indirect process of communication.
The main risk is if one person puts themselves forward for a meeting and the other person does not wish to take part. In such cases we use indirect means, such as a letter of apology to deal with the issue.
If an offender does not wish to meet the victim face to face, are other Restorative Justice measures available?
In such cases we consider using indirect means, such as a letter of apology or a shuttle of conversations, to try and answer any questions or concerns a victim may have.
How long will it take?
The length of the process can vary according to the complexity of the circumstances of the crime and the practicalities of bringing victim and offender together. There is no time limit and you are never rushed to engage in a part of the process until you feel ready for it.
Can I withdraw at any time?
Quite simply: yes.
If you are an offender and you have made a commitment to the Court to undertake Restorative Justice, the Court will be informed and you will not be entitled to any credit for having agreed to take part.
If you are a victim and you have changed your mind- you can always come back to us at any point in the future should you wish to re-engage/circumstances change?
What happens at the end of the process? Is there ‘aftercare’?
The final part of the process is a follow up meeting with your facilitator that looks to gauge your satisfaction with the process and to see if you have any ongoing needs. If there has been a conference outcome agreement this will be monitored to ensure that any actions are completed. If you do have ongoing needs you will be signposted to an agency that can help you.
Can Restorative Justice take place if the offence was years ago?
We will be happy to take on cases from many years ago, particularly where there are serious issues still affecting you. There may however be difficulties in gathering sufficient information to enable the case to proceed. Where such cases are unreported and may expose both historic offences and current risk or danger- this may have to lead to disclosure to the Police.