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New restorative action plan released
By Helena Hickey
The Ministry of Justice has released its third restorative justice (RJ) action plan, setting out its objectives up until March 2018.
Areas of focus highlighted in the plan include ensuring RJ is available to victims irrespective of whether the offender is an adult or young person, where in the country they live and where they are located.
Making sure people are aware of RJ and know how to access it, and that it is safe, competent and focused on the needs of the victim are also key aims.
The action plan aims to build on the work of its predecessors, whose successes include around £2.5 million being allocated to the Youth Justice Board to build capability in Youth Offending Teams, and the implementation of a new Victims' Code in December 2013.
Another key development since 2012 includes an additional £30 million raised from offenders to fund RJ provision over three years, of which almost £23 million has been allocated to police and crime commissioners (PCCs).
As part of international restorative justice week, which runs from November 16 to 23, Merseyside Deputy PCC Councillor Ann O'Byrne pledged to give £100,000 to help victims get answers from offenders.
The new pot of funding for RJ, which is being used to improve the support on offer to victims of crime, will be made available to organisations which can expand or develop schemes to deliver restorative justice that recognise the needs of victims.
Among the projects to increase the use of RJ, is a commitment from the Deputy Commissioner to provide further funding for specialist training to increase awareness among police officers.
Ms O'Byrne said: “As victims’ champion, I am absolutely committed to putting victims first and these RJ initiatives are all designed to help empower people who have been affected by crime.
“Restorative justice is about giving victims the chance to be heard, to get answers and to get a sense of closure. Giving victims the chance to come face-to-face with those who have committed crimes against them can help them to find a really positive way forward.
After discussions with Merseyside Police’s Academy, online training will be provided to make officers more alert to appropriate opportunities to use RJ and give victims more access to seek answers from offenders.
Jon Kennett, Head of Learning at the CSP Academy, which delivers qualifications in restorative justice, said that measures need to be implemented in a structured way to be successful.
He said: “Over the years we have observed and promoted the evolution of restorative approaches from a 'movement' to an effective tool to reduce re-offending and the impact of crime on victims. However, it needs to be implemented and delivered in a structured way.
"Any organisations implementing restorative approaches need to give serious thought to not only having well trained and qualified practitioners but also the strategic understanding and effective processes in place to enable them to risk assess, implement and evaluate it locally."
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