The Restorative Justice Process
The Restorative Justice process is designed to be safe for both the victim and the offender throughout the process. It’s a fully structured needs-led process, managed by trained and experienced facilitators. They are there to prepare the participants and can explain in detail at the outset what you can expect and what your options are. Having a first conversation does not represent any commitment on the part of a victim. It is the opportunity to learn more about what you might experience, to help you to make an informed decision about whether or not you wish to take part.
Starting the Process
RJ can be initiated by the victim, the offender or the court. If the court recommends Restorative Justice it will be in addition to the basic penalty given to an offender when passing sentence, it is not an alternative to appropriate punishment. A victim or offender may also seek out Restorative Justice personally, possibly following advice from other agencies.
Whilst the court might order that the Restorative Justice process be made available in a particular case, it is still dependent on the voluntary agreement of both parties for it to move ahead. As a victim, you are under no obligation to take part unless you are comfortable with the process and what you might get from it.
Bringing Victim and Offender Together
Possibilities for restorative processes include;
- contact or indirect contact via a facilitator or others
- the ‘shuttle process’ – where the facilitator goes back and forth between the parties
- the exchange of letters directly between victim and offender
- restorative justice ‘conferences’ – where a facilitator brings a victim and offender together to talk through the offence, its impact on the individual, their family and the community- and its ongoing consequences
- direct actions or indirect actions may then be agreed between the participants as part of a conference agreement
A face to face meeting can take place when both parties have been prepared and have given their full and informed consent to taking part. The process will take place at the pace determined by the participants and may include meetings with other key figures, including family, friends and supporters. The process is about building understanding and confidence, with a face-to-face meeting and an agreement on some form of reparation being the end of a journey. There is no time limit on how long this process takes.
Restorative Justice Conferences
A Restorative Justice conference or meeting provides a face-to-face forum through which those affected by the incident can talk about:
- what happened
- who was affected and how
- and what can be done to address the harm
The meeting can include the families and friends of both victims and offenders and is led by a trained facilitator in a neutral location.
A Restorative Justice conference follows a three stage process
Stage 1 involves finding out what happened. At this stage the offender describes the offence and the victim has the opportunity to ask questions about what happened and get answers to some basic questions such as “why me?”
Stage 2 involves finding out how everyone was affected by the offence.
At this stage it is the victim’s opportunity to express the real depth of hurt caused by the crime and where the supporters, from both sides, discuss how they were affected by the incident of harm.
Stage 3 focuses on how to make things better.
This stage is about agreeing actions that will repair the harm and prevent future harm.
Successful outcomes can take many forms and are different and individual to each case. The key to a successful outcome is in looking forward and enabling both parties to plan for the future with confidence.