Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner welcomes positive start for restorative justice
A programme aimed at cutting the number of re-offenders by letting criminals explain their actions to victims has been backed by Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston.
Gwent’s Police’s restorative justice programme, introduced as part of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, has been active since April 8.
So far, 30 first-time offenders have taken part in the scheme.
Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston said: “It is pleasing to see the positive impact this initiative is having in Gwent. I strongly believe that offenders should face the consequences of their actions and to see, first hand, what impact they have had on the day to day lives of their victims.
“So far, the results show that restorative justice is having the desired effect in Gwent; reducing re-offending as well as increasing satisfaction rates amongst victims, which is exactly what we set out to achieve.”
Gwent Police was the first in Wales to have implemented a restorative justice programme across the entire force area. Offenders suitable for the restorative justice programme are those who have committed and admitted a first offence. These include minor assault, criminal damage, public order, theft or fraud.
While the offender is in custody, the custody sergeant will decide on the offender’s suitability for restorative justice and will bail the offender for 28 days for the process to take place.
The Youth Offender Service will notify the victim, ask their opinion and what they think is the best form of solution. Twenty eight days after the offender was bailed and referred to the programme, a Youth Offender Panel, made up of officers, members of the youth offender team and members of the public, will decide the best outcome, considering the wishes of the victim and the circumstances of the case.
Restorative justice outcomes vary and can include a face-to-face meeting with the victim, a written apology or repair work if any property was damaged.
If the offender refuses to engage with the programme or accept the panel’s decision, he or she will return to custody for charging in the usual way. If the offender commits another offence, they will not get the option for restorative justice again.
Superintendent Glyn Fernquest leads the restorative justice programme for Gwent Police.
He said: “Restorative justice has been shown to result in a lower rate of re-offending (at 60%). There is a focus on putting things right for the long term and also healing relationships with the victims and the community. It gives the victim the opportunity to get some satisfaction and closure from the process but also, it doesn’t criminalise the offender, who is often very young, so it gives them an opportunity to make amends and make a positive contribution to society.”
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