Restorative Justice: A Practitioner’s Perspective
Posted on: 26th, May 2023
In this blog, we’ll look at a Restorative Justice case from a practitioner’s perspective. Dave initially didn’t agree with Restorative Justice, thinking it was a “soft option” for criminals. This was until he had his first experience of implementing a successful restorative approach in 2007, in response to a neighbour dispute. Dave realised the impact Restorative Justice could have and has been an advocate ever since, joining Restorative Solutions after retiring from the police force in 2019.
Dave was the lead practitioner on Sarah’s case, who had enquired about Restorative Justice following the death of her son which had resulted in two offenders being sentenced for dangerous driving. Dave first made contact with Sarah via phone call, where he explained the Restorative Justice process and his role within Restorative Solutions. Sarah was interested in finding out more, so Dave visited her at home that same evening to discuss her circumstances in more detail.
In these initial meetings Dave shares his experience with Restorative Justice. He explains that a trusting relationship with victims is vital to a successful outcome, and finds that giving some background about himself helps victims feel more settled and honest when discussing their own experiences. This initial meeting with Sarah lasted many hours, as Dave stressed the importance of working to the victim’s time-scale and making sure they don’t feel rushed. He says, “you afford people the time they need to offload”.
In this particular case, there was another victim who had passed away as a result of the offenders’ dangerous driving. Sarah reached out to this boy’s mother, Angela, to see if she would also be interested in Restorative Justice. Dave met with Angela the next evening, travelling the one and a half hours to her home for an initial meeting. He highlights the importance of fitting around the victim’s schedule, arranging meetings when best suits them. In this meeting with Angela, it became clear that Restorative Justice would also be a beneficial process for her.
Dave advised that the two mothers participate in the process together - it seemed unlikely that the offenders would agree to two Restorative Justice meetings, and meant they would have each other for support. Two further meetings were held with Sarah and Angela respectively, in which Dave worked to build a relationship with each individual, before they both met with Dave to establish a script. To prepare the script, Dave asked what questions Sarah and Angela had for the offenders, advising on appropriate language and approach.
Dave arranges the logistics for Restorative Justice meetings so that all possibilities are prepared for. Practitioners are experienced in thinking about details that others may overlook, such as what seating arrangements would make everybody most comfortable. It’s important that the victims feel as at ease as possible, and that the offender doesn’t feel intimidated or ambushed. This could result in either party not fully engaging in the process. As there were two offenders in this case two separate meetings were held about a month apart, with a risk assessment drawn up for each. Dave drove Sarah and Angela to the prison and back for both meetings.
Following each meeting, Dave arranged a time the following day to call and check in on Sarah and Angela. In all cases participants are given a feedback form. Once this is complete, the case is considered closed, although Dave reminds victims that he is there if they wish to chat about the case further. He has reconnected with some Restorative Justice participants years after cases have closed, who reach out to thank him for the impact the process had on their lives.
Dave describes being a Restorative Justice practitioner as “rewarding but emotionally demanding…practitioners put so much into a case”. It’s clear how passionate Dave is about Restorative Justice, and it’s this commitment from our practitioners that makes this process so impactful.
Following her experience with Restorative Justice, Sarah began volunteering for Restorative Solutions to help others with the process. This led to her being employed by Restorative Solutions in a community conferencing role, facilitating restorative approaches within communities.