Reflections on a terrible week

When I sit down to write my blogs I normally look back on the previous week’s news to get ideas and inspiration. But last week was unremittingly bleak, with the awful mass shooting in Orlando targeting members of the LGBT community and the tragic murder of the MP Jo Cox, all against a backdrop of the toxic political environment created by the EU referendum campaigns. Within this context, I’ve rarely felt less inspired to write something positive about anything.

With this in mind I don’t want to write, as I normally do, about restorative justice. Or at least not directly. Instead I wanted to reflect on my own experience of meeting MPs over the last few years, in this role and in previous jobs. MPs get a lot of criticism and sometimes it’s merited. But over the years I have been consistently impressed by the MPs that I have met.

It’s a difficult, demanding job, from the hours that they keep to the expectations that people have of them. They are expected to be policy experts on every topic as well as all round problem-solvers in their constituencies. They have a tiny staff and those with families, especially those with small children, face particular challenges. Yet the MPs that I have met, without exception, have been interested and engaged and committed to making a difference. I don’t necessarily always agree with them, but constructive debate is an important part of a democratic system.

And MPs have made a difference in the development of restorative justice. From individuals like Crispin Blunt and Jeremy Wright, who did so much to get restorative justice embedded into the Ministry of Justice’s plans for the justice system, to members of the Justice Select Committee, who are currently pulling together the report of their inquiry on restorative justice, MPs have played an important part in the progress made in recent years.

Looking forward, we are anticipating that a new Victims’ Bill will soon be debated in the House of Commons. We hope that restorative justice will be at the heart of it and we’ll be working with MPs to make sure that it is. Whether that happens or not, I’m sure that MPs will be motivated only by what will get the best services for victims of crime.

‘So what?’, you may be thinking. But there’s no profound point here. I just wanted to show some support to a group of people mourning the death of a colleague, people who do a hard job in the face of unstinting criticism and usually with the best of intentions. The events of last week were nothing less than tragic. But I hope that it does help us all to think more positively about MPs and to talk about them and treat them accordingly.