Restorative Justice for all?
Regular readers will remember a report by the Criminal Justice Alliance earlier this year which pointed out how patchy access to restorative justice (RJ) is across the country. The CJA argued strongly that RJ should be available to all victims of crime and that it would cost just £30.5 million per year to do so.
Last month (17 October 2017) the RJ organisation, Why me? published a report which reviewed Police and Crime Commissioners’ funding of RJ in the four year period 2013-2017 via the findings from a Freedom of Information request.
Between 2013/2016 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) funded Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to set up and develop restorative services. Overall £23 million was allocated to PCCs. Since April 2016 funding for RJ activity has been included within the overall Victims fund allocation to PCCs. RJ funding is not ‘ringfenced’ so each PCC can decide how much to spend on RJ from their budget.
In 2016, the Justice Select Committee recommended as part of their RJ Inquiry that “information relating to how Police and Crime Commissioners are spending monies on restorative justice is helpful in assessing progress against the Ministry’s Action Plan.”
The Ministry of Justice sets out the following key areas for delivery within the current RJ action plan:
- Equal access – RJ is available to victims at all stages of the Criminal Justice System irrespective of whether the offender in the case is an adult or a young person and irrespective of where in the country the victim lives and where the offender is located. Victims should not be denied RJ because of the offence committed against them.
- Awareness and understanding – People are aware of RJ and its potential benefits (particularly for victims). They understand what RJ entails and its place in the CJS. Victims and offenders can make informed decisions about participating in RJ and know how to access it.
The Why me? research, based upon the information from PCCs, reveals significant variations in expenditure across PCC areas. It raises serious questions about how far the MoJ have achieved their vision, laid out in the RJ Action Plan, to provide equal access to Restorative Justice for victims regardless of geographic location.
In analysing the data provided by the Ministry of Justice, Why me? used two comparators.
- The level of reported expenditure on RJ as a % of the victim’s fund.
- The level of reported RJ expenditure in PCC areas against recorded crime levels.
They note that the findings may not be completely accurate as some PCCs may commission RJ services from their own budgets. Nevertheless, the findings are interesting:
- The level of RJ expenditure as a % of victims fund showed a variation between 0.1% (Dorset) and 22.4% (Durham). The median % was 6.6%
- The level of RJ expenditure against recorded crime per police area shows a difference in the’ investment’ in restorative services reported by PCCs to be from 2p per recorded crime (Dorset) to £5.21 per recorded crime (Thames Valley). The median expenditure for PCCs was £1.68p
Despite the caveat outlined above, such wide variations seem to make it clear that victims’ access to restorative justice depends, to a very large degree, on where you live in England and Wales.
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