Deputy PCC urges victims to consider restorative justice

Merseyside / November 23

Merseyside’s Deputy Police Commissioner is marking International Restorative Justice Week by encouraging victims of crime who want to get answers from the perpetrators to use the county’s restorative justice service.

Cllr Emily Spurrell made the appeal as she promoted the awareness-raising week by visiting Victim Support Merseyside, who deliver the Police Commissioner’s service offering victims of crime the option to access restorative justice on Merseyside.

During the visit, she met the team who run the Restorative Justice service and heard examples of how the service has benefited victims of crime across Merseyside, including the account of one Merseyside woman who was shot during a robbery at a petrol station.

After going through the restorative justice process and eventually meeting her attacker the woman said: “I never thought I would be able to go a whole day without remembering what happened on the day I was shot. Now I tend to think more about the positive experience of the meeting I had with him.”

Restorative justice enables a victim to have contact with those responsible for the crime to explain to them the real impact of their offending behaviour and to get answers to their questions. It empowers a victim to challenge the offender’s actions and it can often be a huge step in helping them move forward and recover from the crime.

International Restorative Justice Week runs from November 19th to 26th and aims to increase awareness and knowledge of restorative justice and how victims of crime can use it to find a positive way forward.

Emily said: “The theme for this year’s International Restorative Justice Week is ‘Valuing Victims’ which highlights the fact that the victims lie at the heart of our restorative justice service here in Merseyside.

““For some people affected by crime, it can be very difficult living with unanswered questions and it may be that the only person who can answer those questions is the person who did the harm. Restorative justice is about giving victims the chance to be heard, to get answers and to get a sense of closure – for some victims the process is invaluable in helping them to cope, recover and move forward with their lives.

“As we mark International Restorative Justice Week, I was delighted to visit Victim Support Merseyside to hear first-hand about the work they are delivering and how it is making a difference in the lives of people who have been through some very traumatic experiences.

“I want to use this opportunity to highlight the service that Victim Support Merseyside offers, so that if anyone affected by crime thinks restorative justice could be useful for them they know how to access it.”

Any person who has been affected by crime can contact Victim Support Merseyside to see if restorative justice could work for them. It is a free, confidential service. Victim Support Merseyside have trained facilitators who will discuss a case with an individual, look at the options available and, if appropriate, work with police and other partners to make it happen.

Restorative justice is always voluntary and only takes place after an offender has accepted responsibility for the crime, and both victim and offender have agreed to take part. A trained facilitator also has to assess the case as suitable. It is not designed to replace criminal proceedings.

Evidence shows that more than 85% of victims who have taken part in restorative justice processes have come away feeling satisfied.

Victim Support Merseyside’s Operations Manager Barbara Oakley said: “As a team we take great care to make sure that every individual using the restorative justice service feels safe and secure at every stage. Restorative Justice is so powerful and brings benefits for people that traditional criminal justice proceedings can’t, including feeling empowered and finding peace of mind.”

Officers and PCSOs from Merseyside Police have also been trained to recognise and identify when restorative justice could benefit a victim and are able to highlight this service to victims when appropriate.

Anyone interested in finding out more or taking part in restorative justice should contact Victim Support by calling (0151) 353 4003 or emailing the RJ team on [email protected]                                                                          

Marian’s story

Marian**, 45, was shot 4 years ago outside a local petrol station when an offender was trying to carry out a robbery. She suffered severe physical injuries from the shooting needing numerous lengthy operations, skin grafts to her legs, extensive physiotherapy and has been left with a permanent limp.

In addition to her injuries Marian found she couldn’t get closure in her own mind.

Marian heard about Restorative Justice through her Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) and felt this was the right course of action for her. The VLO referred her to the RJ team and an facilitator contacted the prison to initiate the RJ process with the offender.

After extensive individual assessment and preparation sessions with Marian and her offender (Tony**) both parties were keen to have a face to face meeting

Marian felt the conference was a really positive experience for her and had huge benefits.

Tony explained himself fully to Marian and apologised several times for the harm he had caused. He also told her about the programmes he had done in custody and qualifications he is taking.  The offender now wants to meet with his other victims from the shooting as he realises how he has affected people’s lives.

Tony agreed that the prison could send updates to Marian on his progress while he is in custody.

Marian said: “I never thought I would be able to go a whole day without remembering what happened on the day I was shot. Now I tend to think more about the positive experience of the meeting I had with Tony.”

** Names have been changed

Image: L to R – PCC's director of commissioning Nick Mills, Victim Support Operations Manager Barbara Oakley, Jeannette Wrigley RJ caseworker, Deputy PCC Cllr Emily Spurrell, Megan Thomas RJ support worker