Your Questions Answered
When you first get involved in a Restorative Justice process you may find that, like most people, there are a lot of questions that run through your mind. Here are some of the questions we get asked most frequently by victims, offenders and others involved. They will hopefully address questions you might have, but remember, we are always happy to talk on the telephone, by email or meet with you face to face. Just contact us about your concerns.
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. TVRJS is a recipient of the Howard League’s prestigious Community Sentence Award (2010) and was one of the first organisations in the field to be awarded the national Restorative Service Quality Mark in 2014. TVRJS is an internationally-recognised centre of excellence and has pioneered the delivery of Restorative Justice for adults in the criminal justice system since 2000.
What is Restorative Justice and what does it do?
Restorative Justice (RJ) is about communication between victims and offenders. It empowers victims by giving them an opportunity to both ask questions of and explain to offenders the real impact of the crime. Offenders are held to account for what they have done and encouraged to take responsibility and make amends.
Restorative Justice therefore aims to increase the empowerment and wellbeing of the victim after the crime and informs the experience of the offender in planning their life for the future.
Government research demonstrates that Restorative Justice provides an 85% victim satisfaction rate, and a 14% reduction in the frequency of re-offending.
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. Rigorous risk assessments are prepared in relation to face-to-face meetings. In those cases where face-to-face meetings are 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.
Victims of crimes which have had a personal impact on them, who request 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.
“Do I have to do it?”
I was harmed by a crime and the perpetrator has been given Restorative Justice as part of their sentence…
In sentencing an offender a Court may order that Restorative Justice be considered as part of the process. However, if you are the victim of a criminal offence, there is no obligation for you to participate in a Restorative Justice process. You will be contacted by an Restorative Justice facilitator who will help guide you through what the process entails and what you might expect from it. You will then be able to make an informed decision on whether you think Restorative Justice might be beneficial to you at this stage.
I was harmed by a crime and I want to find out whether Restorative Justice is an option I might like to take up…
Restorative Justice can take place at any stage of the criminal justice process, when requested by the victim. Contact us to talk to an Restorative Justice facilitator who will help guide you through what the process entails, what you might expect from it and whether you think it might be beneficial to you.
I’ve committed an offence and been to court. I’ve been given Restorative Justice as part of my sentence….
Courts are most likely to make use of Restorative Justice in relation to the sentencing process.
Offenders instructed to go through Restorative Justice by a court must have admitted their crime and they must also decide whether to participate. You will be contacted by an Restorative Justice facilitator who will help guide you through what the process entails and what you might expect from it. You will then be able to make an informed decision on whether you think Restorative Justice might be beneficial for you.
It is important to make clear that Restorative Justice is not used as an alternative to a sentence, although Restorative Justice and any amends made by an offender will be taken into account when sentence is passed. 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 an Restorative Justice facilitator, does not imply any commitment to be involved in the process and will help you make an informed decision on whether you think Restorative Justice might be beneficial for you.
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. Restorative Justice 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 was chosen can be reassuring and enable the victim to move on and feel safer. Restorative Justice can be nerve-wracking for victims. They are given full preparation and support from the Restorative Justice facilitator and, if they wish, by their family and friends.
How does the process start?
There are various points where the Restorative Justice 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 Restorative Justice 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 a Restorative Justice process is chosen, the facilitator meets again with the victim and offender separately to begin the preparation work. This may involve some level of indirect communication (through the facilitator) to address any details or concerns that need to be resolved before a meeting can take place. Where participants remain in favour of a meeting, this work will lead to a ‘Restorative Justice Conference’, which is a face-to-face meeting between the victim and offender, often including family, friends or others affected by what happened.
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.
What would I have to do?
Ultimately, the Restorative Justice process offers victim and offender an opportunity, together, to create a greater understanding in the offender of the consequences of their actions and to offer the victim the opportunity to ask questions and receive an apology and reparation from the offender.
What are the benefits of Restorative Justice and how has it worked for others?
There is a growing body of evidence, based on formal research, that Restorative Justice benefits victims by offering them some sense of “closure” and an understanding of why they came to be victimised. It has a positive influence on offenders, reducing the rate of re-offending. It. A number of practical case studies can be viewed on the website of the Restorative Justice Council (Recovering From Crime – Restorative Justice In Action) and on this site
How do victims benefit?
Victims benefit from Restorative Justice in a number of ways, including an opportunity to help them understand why they were victimised in the first place. They can explain to the offender the impact the crime has had in their lives, which can create a sense of being listened to. They also have the opportunity to receive an apology and often receive some form of reparation from the offender.
Victims often describe being empowered by the process which means that they no longer live in fear of going out and leading a normal life. For some victims it has meant that they can go out to the local shops, collect their child from school and not be afraid of a chance meeting with the offender in the street.
My partner or family member was the victim in a homicide incident. Can I use RJ?
Yes. Such an incident can be the cause of great distress to those related to the victim or who knew the victim well. They may initiate the Restorative Justice process to help alleviate the harm that has been done to them.
What can offenders get out of RJ?
Many offenders report being pleased with having taken part, saying it was difficult but worthwhile. Evidence shows that offenders often feel better able to move on with their lives after taking part in Restorative Justice and find greater resolve to make positive changes.
Is it possible to meet people who have been through RJ?
There may be people in your area who are prepared to share their experience of the Restorative Justice process. Ask your facilitator if they can arrange a conversation with them.
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.
Can I observe an Restorative Justice Conference?
Owing to the personal, emotional and confidential nature of Restorative Justice conferences, only those participating can be involved and observe. This is seen as key to safeguarding the well being of all our participants.
If an offender does not wish to meet the victim, are other Restorative Justice measures available and how can they be accessed?
In such cases we consider using indirect means, such as a letter of apology to deal with the issue.
“Offenders get off, don’t they?” Does the offender get time off their sentence if they do it?
An offender’s participation in an Restorative Justice process does not mitigate any sentence the court may deem appropriate, and may indeed be initiated by an order of the court.
How long will it take?
The length of the process can vary according to the complexity of the circumstances of the crime and of the practicalities of bringing victim and offender together. There is no set timetable 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, or make amends.
What happens at the end of the process? Is there “aftercare”?
The final part of the process is a voluntary post Restorative Justice meeting with your facilitator both 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 pointed to an agency that can help you
Can Restorative Justice be done if the offence was many years ago?
We will be happy to take on cases from many years ago, particularly where they 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.
Are you part of the Police?
TVRJS is not a police agency. It is part of the Thames Valley Partnership, a charitable organisation devoted to developing safer communities by working across multiple agencies in local government and other statutory authorities, and charitable organisations. This includes the office of the Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley. TVRJS does work in collaboration with the police and other criminal justice agencies to ensure safety of practice, and has relevant protocols and agreements to ensure this is done within good practice guidelines and legislation.
Have you a brochure?
You can download an information leaflet here to help guide you and to share with friends or supporters.