Long delayed Government proposals won’t empower victims

The Restorative Justice Council notes today’s announcement by the Ministry of Justice that the Victims and Prisoners Bill has been introduced. This is a revised version of the long-awaited Victims Bill, published in draft form last May. Our immediate concern is not in the detail but the way the Government has at the last minute and without any consultation, shifted the focus away from victims by including additional proposals about the Parole Board.

First promised eight years ago, it is deeply disappointing that the Government appears to have rejected many of the suggestions put forward by the restorative justice sector in the two rounds of consultation following the publication of the draft Bill last January. It also appears they have rejected the recommendations of the House of Commons Justice Select Committee which published its report of pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill in September 2022.

Based on Ministry of Justice press release, the revised Victims and Prisoners Bill fails to make specific mention of the right to information about restorative justice or to be referred to restorative justice services. This is, in part, a consequence of including only the rather vague “principles”, which the Government seem to prefer, to the much more specific twelve rights set out in the Victims Code.

The RJC, with the support of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice and the wider restorative justice sector, had already put forward detailed proposals for amendments to the Draft Victims Bill, several of which were supported by the Justice Committee.

We will now be seeking the support of opposition parties, MPs and Peers to put these amendments forward during the revised Bill’s passage through Parliament. The RJC notes the concerns expressed already by Shadow Victims Minister Anna McMorrin and sees this as a promising sign there will be a vigorous debate about these proposals.

We also echo the concerns of the End Violence Against Women Coalition about the failure to address the key issue of resources. Victims’ services across the board, including restorative justice services, are constrained by the limited funding made available to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across England and Wales and in the three areas Mayors with responsibility for policing and crime. In the case of restorative justice services, this results in a postcode lottery across the country. The Justice Committee itself first drew attention to this problem in 2016. More recently the All-Party Parliamentary Group published its Inquiry report setting out the problems in detail and made clear recommendations about what actions should be taken to address them.

Jim Simon, CEO of the RJC, said:

“The Victims and Prisoner Bill is yet another missed opportunity to recognise the important role of restorative justice in giving victims a voice. The evidence is clear that high quality restorative justice, facilitated by the skilled and experienced services registered with us, results in high levels of victim satisfaction and reduces re-offending.”

For further information contact communications@restorativejustice.org.uk

Notes for editors:

About the RJC

The Restorative Justice Council (RJC) was formed in 1998 as an independent third sector membership body for the field of restorative practice and the national voice advocating the widespread use of all forms of restorative practice, including restorative justice. The Council primarily operates across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Its role is to set and champion clear standards for restorative practice which ensure quality and support those in the field to build their skills, knowledge, and capacity. At the same time, the RJC raises public awareness and confidence in restorative processes. The aim of the RJC is to drive take-up and to enable safe, high quality restorative practice to develop and thrive.

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice

Inquiry | Restorative Justice APPG (rjappg.co.uk)

Reports from the Justice Committee

The two key Justice Select Committee Reports are:

Pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Victims Bill: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report - Justice Committee (parliament.uk)

Restorative justice inquiry - Committees - UK Parliament