Frequently Asked Questions
What is restorative justice?
Restorative justice gives victims the chance to meet or communicate with their offender to explain the real impact of the crime - it empowers victims by giving them a voice. It also holds offenders to account for what they have done and helps them to take responsibility and make amends. Restorative justice often involves a conference, where a victim meets their offender face to face. Sometimes, when a face to face meeting is not the best way forward, the victim and offender will communicate via letters, recorded interviews or video instead.
Why would I take part?
Many victims feel that the criminal justice system does not give them a chance to get involved. Restorative justice puts victims at the heart of the justice process – it gives you a chance to ask the offender any questions that you have and get anything that you want to say about the impact of the crime off your chest. Government research demonstrates that 85% of victims who take part in restorative justice find the process helpful. For many victims meeting the person who has harmed them can be a huge step in moving forward in recovering from the crime. Restorative justice also helps to cut crime - research shows that it reduces reoffending by 14%.
Which offences can restorative justice be used for?
Restorative justice can potentially be used for any type of crime. It can help victims of low level crime and people who have experienced the most serious offences. There are certain offences which can pose particular challenges for the restorative process, for example sexual offences, hate crime and domestic violence. However, restorative justice can still help victims of these offences. It is important that these types of cases are handled by senior practitioners who have relevant skills and experience.
How will I know what to do?
The restorative justice process is led by a facilitator who supports and prepares the people taking part and makes sure that it is safe. They will be able to talk you through the process, answer any questions that you may have and explain what will happen every step of the way. This will be a chance to explore what will work best for you and it is entirely up to you to decide whether to go through with it. You can drop out at any time.
Some people prefer to attend a restorative justice meeting on their own but others have a friend or family member with them to provide support. This will be discussed with the facilitator and agreed in advance, so that the supporter is fully prepared. Even if you decide not to bring anybody with you, the facilitator would always be there.
Can I stop the process at any time?
Yes. Restorative justice is entirely voluntary and you can pull out at any time, including on the day of a conference or even while the meeting is going on. The facilitator will support you and try to make sure that there are no surprises as you go through the process, but whether you go through with it is entirely up to you.
Is restorative justice safe?
Yes. Facilitators are trained in assessing risks and making sure that the process is safe for everybody involved. They would never let a restorative justice conference go ahead if they were not confident that it could be done safely. You would never be left alone with the offender and the facilitator would support you every step of the way.
When does restorative justice happen?
For any kind of communication to take place, the offender must have admitted to the crime, and both victim and offender must be willing to participate. Restorative justice can be used for any type of crime and at any stage of the criminal justice system, including alongside a prison sentence. The Restorative Justice Council advocates the use of safe, high quality restorative justice wherever and whenever it is needed. Watch our film to find out more.
How can I access restorative justice?
Depending on what is available where you live, you may be able to access restorative justice by asking your victim liaison officer or witness care officer, if you have one. If you live in England or Wales, you will have a local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) who may also be able to help you get in touch with your nearest restorative justice service provider. Find your local PCC contact.
Alternatively, there are a number of services across England and Wales which can help victims access restorative justice. Find a Registered Service Provider in your area.
How can I hear from other people who have been through restorative justice?
The best way to learn about what restorative justice might be able to offer you is to hear from people who have been through the process. Read some stories.