22/07/2003

Restorative justice will see more criminals face their victims

Proposals to extend the way that restorative justice is used could see more victims of crime, anti-social behaviour and school bullying face those who offended against them, the Home Secretary has announced today.

The scheme is currently used with young offenders, but the proposals published today are set to extend its remit. The government has said that the move is dedicated to "putting victims of crime at the heart of the criminal justice system".

Restorative Justice brings victims and offenders into contact - either face-to-face, if the victim wishes - or indirectly through a mediator. As well as helping victims, restorative justice forces offenders to understand the damaging effect their crimes have on their victims and the community.

The government claim that more than 75% of victims who choose to take part in restorative justice are "glad they did so".

Mr Blunkett said: "Being a victim of crime can be a harrowing and traumatic experience and the way in which the criminal justice system responds has a profound effect on victims. For too long, the needs of victims and witnesses have been overlooked in the criminal justice system. It is time for that to change.

"Communities need to see the impact of offenders being brought to justice, not only through a reduction in offending but also by directly benefiting from community punishments. Part of this involves making wider use of restorative justice; an innovative and constructive community based response to crime."

Key elements include use of restorative justice: as a requirement of the new police conditional caution; after an offender has been convicted; and as part of sentence management, tied in with the offender's completing of offending behaviour programmes.

Dame Helen Reeves, Chief Executive of Victim Support, said: "This strategy brings the promise of statutory rights for victims, something for which Victim Support has long campaigned and which should bring substantial benefits for people whose needs have too often been overlooked in the past."

(GMcG)

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