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Gareth Jones, Chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM) and Sean Creaney, Trustee of the National Association for Youth Justice (NAYJ) have recently taken an in-depth look at the use of pre-sentence restorative justice in the Crown Court setting. As part of the scheme, the case appearing in the Crown Court is deferred prior to sentence if both the victim and offender are willing to meet face to face. The approach has been piloted across parts of England with adult offenders. The authors wanted to consider how this may link to children in the Youth Justice System.
The scheme has been a success for many of those involved. Victims of some very serious offences including burglary, assault and robbery have spoken directly to their offenders, explaining how much harm has been caused.
The authors found that in a number of cases offenders listened, and apologised directly to their victims. The offenders tended to find it difficult to deal with the fact that they had caused so much harm to another person. For example one offender said: “this is worse than sitting in front of a judge and worse than any sentence a judge could give to me”. In a different case the victim of a section 20 assault and offender met in the prison. The victim did have some questions answered and felt relieved after taking part as they had a better understanding as to why the crime happened. The genuine remorse made the victim feel calmer.
Of course there is the danger that some offenders may not meet with their victims for sincere intentions. There should be no incentive for insincerity the authors say. Also despite an offender showing remorse, the victim may not accept the apology possibly exacerbating anger and distress for both parties. However to counter these dangers the authors argued in the paper that practitioners should be properly trained in the use of pre-sentence restorative justice as they have a fundamental part to play in ensuring offenders and victims do not enter into it for the wrong reasons.
A well-trained and experienced restorative justice facilitator will ensure that both parties (victims and offenders) are properly assessed (preventing inappropriate cases from going forward, such as where the offender does not accept responsibility) and prepared (i.e. the victim is aware of the potential risks that the offender’s sentence may be reduced).
When implemented and delivered effectively pre-sentence restorative justice will achieve justice for both parties (victims and offenders) with the main objective being closure but it also reduces stress, trauma, improves self-esteem, and achieves reductions in re-offending.
To read the peer-reviewed published article in full click here. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/SC-05-2015-0018
Gareth Jones is Chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers and Head of Service at Cheshire West, Halton and Warrington Youth Offending Service.
Sean Creaney is a Trustee of the National Association for Youth Justice, London and Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Sciences at the University Centre, Stockport College. Prior to this he worked for Cheshire West, Halton and Warrington Youth Offending Service.
Responding to the findings of the report, the CEO of the Restorative Justice Council, Jon Collins said: “Restorative justice enables victims to meet the offender, explain the impact that the offence had on them, and potentially receive an explanation and an apology.
“It can also help offenders to understand the impact of their actions and make amends. Research shows that it both improves victim satisfaction and reduces reoffending.
“While it can take place at any point of the criminal justice process, conducting a restorative justice meeting before sentencing can allow victims to benefit from it quickly and put the crime behind them.
“As one victim, Rumbie, said after meeting her burglar in a pre-sentence restorative justice conference, “I felt a lot safer in our home and our neighbourhood. We felt empowered.”
“But it’s important that all those involved take part for the right reasons. This is why the people facilitating meetings should receive appropriate training and adhere to national standards.
“Quality restorative justice gives victims a voice and a chance to move on with their lives. It should be made available to every victim of crime who wants it at every stage of the criminal justice process.”
This weeks blog is by Sean Creaney, Trustee of the National Association for Youth Justice and Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Sciences at the University Centre, Stockport College and Gareth Davies, Chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers (AYM)
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