Restorative justice (RJ) is the process by which victims and offenders communicate in a way that aims to ‘restore’ justice either as an alternative to or alongside other punishments. It may give the offender chance to explain why they committed the crime and the victim to explain the impact the crime has had on them. In practice, it often involves an apology from the offender, either written or face-to-face but can require more than this, for example mediation sessions between the two parties. RJ can be utilised at any stage of the criminal justice system but can only happen with the agreement of both the victim and the offender.
Can restorative justice be an alternative to being charged with an offence?
Yes, restorative justice can be an alternative to being charged by the police or CPS. It can be an alternative disposal when a suspect accepts guilt and indicates a willingness to engage with a process. Sometimes, particularly for youth or first time offenders RJ can simply be informal communication, with the police officer as a go-between. It can also be in the form of a victim offender conference which involves a face to face meeting with a trained facilitator. Similarly a community conference could be appropriate if the offence has affected the community as a whole. Sometimes indirect communication is used by way of letter or audio message passed between victim and offender through a go facilitator.
What offences can be dealt with by restorative justice at the police station?
There is no set list of criminal offences that can and can’t be dealt with by restorative justice by the police, but clearly the most serious offences like murder and rape will never be dealt with by RJ. The police rationale is that the RJ must be proportionate to the offence committed. This mean that generally only lower level offending can be dealt with by RJ.
How can I be dealt with by restorative justice instead of being charged?
The police guidelines say that for RJ to be possible:
- the offender must take responsibility
- the victim must be involved
- there must be a structured process that establishes what happened and what the impact has been (this could be a police interview followed by a meeting or correspondence between victim and offender)
- there must be an outcome that seeks to put right the harm caused or makes another reparation that may not be directly related to the original case.
Can a solicitor help you get restorative justice instead of being charged?
Yes. At Olliers Solicitors we take a proactive approach to defending suspects at the investigation stage. If you are under investigation for an offence, we may be able to make representations to the police that restorative justice is an appropriate alternative to you being charged and taken to court.