Restorative justice and anti-social behaviour

Yesterday the press reported on the Government response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, submitted by the Liberal Democrats.

Anti-social behaviour: Two million police reports go unattended - BBC News

The publicity drew attention to the main finding of the FOI request, which was that nearly two million anti-social behaviour (ASB) reports have gone unattended by 34 police forces in England and Wales over the past three years.

Restorative justice has a vital role to play in responding to ASB. It is often a more effective response than resorting to the courts and the criminal justice system. Everyone who lives in a neighbourhood has an interest in there being good, respectful relationships between the diverse communities & people who live there. When conflict happens, restorative interventions led by independent, skilled services and practitioners can get better outcomes.

Victims do not have to wait for the Police to get involved to access restorative justice. They can contact the services themselves, directly, either if they do not want to report to the Police or have done so and are dissatisfied with the response they have received.

Mediation also has an important role to play, and can lead to all parties seeking restorative justice, so good working relationships between mediation and restorative justice services are also very important.

Victims of ASB have had a raw deal from the criminal justice system for many years. They are not covered by the Revised Victims Code, and the Ministry of Justice does not allow Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and Mayors with PCC responsibilities to use their victim services funding, delegated to them, for this purpose. Sometimes things that should be treated as crimes are wrongly classified as ASB. Harassment, including racist and sexist harassment, in all its forms, is a good example of this.

Despite this, restorative justice and other victim services have developed responses to their needs, often in partnership with local authorities and the providers of social housing such as housing associations.

Today, Jim Simon, CEO of the RJC, said

“The RJC shares the concerns expressed in the media yesterday about the ineffectual response to this group of victims. I support the calls from both the current and previous Victims Commissioners, Dame Vera Baird and Baroness Helen Newlove, for Government to act quickly and effectively to improve the situation.

However, the RJC does recognise the huge pressures on victim services funding, delegated to PCCs and Mayors. The extension of victims’ services, including restorative justice services, to victims of ASB must be backed up by a substantial increase in the funding provided by Government at both local and national level.

The RJC will, as a matter of urgency, be contacting the Government, the Local Government Association, political parties, PCCs and Mayors to develop a plan of action to make full use of restorative justice and restorative approaches to tackle behaviour that is a blight on our diverse communities and makes too many people’s lives a misery.”

The Government’s recently announced Safer Streets Round 4 funding which does make a helpful reference to the potential for restorative justice in addressing ASB. Further information about Safer Streets funding can be found here.

Enquiries to David Smith, Policy and Communications Officer, RJC