Is the use of surrogate victims an emerging area of practice?

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Author: 
James Simon
Date: 
11 March 2020

When reviewing feedback from our recent Practice Guidance consultation we were asked:

“Would you consider including guidance on the use of proxy/surrogate participants in cases where the person affected did not wish to take part themselves, but would like another person to step in on their behalf?”

It was a question which split the committee but left us wanting to find out more!

We found several articles which discussed the advantages and potential disadvantages of using surrogate participants. For some, it was clear that using a surrogate participant moved away from restorative principles and that other forms of restorative practice would be more appropriate. This included suggestions such as shuttle conferencing or sharing letters between participants. Others felt that using a surrogate could enable the harmer to empathise with the surrogate’s situation and draw comparisons to their own past experience.

There were many questions raised in what we read, these included:

  • Should surrogates be trained in restorative justice?
  • How do you ensure that the surrogate shares their own experience and not role play those of the person they are representing?
  • How should surrogates be selected?

We also read some information suggesting that using surrogates for some case types was now common practice. This made us think, if using surrogates is common practice then surely we should include it within our practice guidance? It also prompted discussion as to whether there is sufficient research to ensure that practice guidance is underpinned by evidence.

We would like to hear your experiences and views on this area of practice

Have you used a surrogate participant? Is this an area of practice which should be encouraged?

You can join in the discussion by emailing us at RJdiscussions@restorativejustice.org.uk