Search here!

Open letter on the provision of restorative justice through the Victims and Prisoners Bill

The Victims and Prisoners Bill was created in response to the increasing demand for victim-focused reform in the Criminal Justice System. However, as it currently stands, the bill poses a potential risk of exacerbating issues for victims. This is due to its provision of exemptions for any shortcomings from key criminal justice agencies and its limitation on victims’ access to legal redress.

While the V&P Bill aims to strengthen the rights of victims of criminal conduct, serious concerns have been raised about the proposed methods to achieve this, as outlined in our recent update on the law proposal. The report stage marks the fourth of five steps in each House of Parliament.

RJ4All remains concerned about the intentions to regulate and monopolise restorative justice from the top down. We have submitted evidence and published extensively on the topic of community-led practice, emphasising the value that the community sector brings to justice and restorative justice.

RJ4All has submitted an Open Letter to Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb and the detailed proposal to the amendment of the bill, advocating for the provision of restorative justice through the Victims and Prisoners Bill. Read the letter and full proposal below!

Pete Kennedy

Legal and Parliamentary Advisor

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

Green Party

House of Lords                                                                                     

London SW1A 0PW                                                                             

Delivered by email & mail

  17th January 2024

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, Mr. Kennedy:

Thank you for your email (dated 15.1.24) and for considering our points on the provision of restorative justice through the Victims and Prisoners Bill. Even at this late stage, we are confident that you will help make our voice heard in Parliament.

I have summarised our 3 priorities, which I must stress are all evidence-based and non-political. Our institute remains neutral in its approach including presenting arguments both for and against restorative justice, as these are drawn from evidence. I have ranked our requests according to their weight/ impact [1].

  • 1. Highest impact – The right to restorative justice (insert in Part 1, Article 2, par 3): As you know, this Bill has been passed on from Government to Government, and dates as far back as the Victims Directive (2012/29/EU) and The Council of Europe Recommendation CM/REC(2018)8 concerning restorative justice in criminal matters (“Recognising that restorative justice can complement traditional criminal proceedings, or be used as an alternative to them”). The UK continues to ignore the restorative justice rights introduced through these two significant international agreements. Article 2 of the Bill could allow a right for harmed parties to opt for restorative justice as this is currently provided in the UK both through the criminal justice system, and the community sector, including RJ4All.
  • 2. Medium impact – The right to know about restorative justice (insert in Part 1, Article 6): Under the Bill, there is no obligation for criminal justice agencies to inform harmed parties about restorative justice. All the below publications (and much more) argued that the biggest barrier for restorative justice is its low awareness. Whilst cases can be diverted from the criminal and youth justice systems, the parties must know about restorative justice to opt for it. “A right is not a right unless you know about it”. This is a unique opportunity to introduce this option as part of a victim support service whether this is provided by statutory agencies (such as the police or probation), or the voluntary sector. Quoting from CM/REC(2018)8 “Restorative justice may be used at any stage of the criminal justice process”.
  • 3. Specialist impact – The right to open, transparent and competitive high quality service provision (insert in Section 15): Focusing on harmed parties of gender-based violence, the bill states that the government must issue guidance about independent domestic violence (IDVAs) and sexual violence (ISVAs) advisors. This again will be of high relevance for RJ4All, as the restorative justice that we provide fits into the bill’s current definition of IDVA and ISVA. We are concerned that agencies offering ISVAs and IDVAs will control the field of provision, and any restorative justice agencies offering support to victims of either sexual or domestic violence will need to conform. The concern is that these new restrictions will actually limit accessibility for harmed parties while also trying to control the community nature of restorative justice. Furthermore, ISVA/IDVA training courses are expensive, and therefore not feasible for all organisations while they could be used as profit generating opportunities. This therefore runs the risk of excluding victims who rely on charities such as ours and may exacerbate any existing problems which are generated through harmed parties’ mistrust in the criminal justice system and its continuous failings (reasons recorded in the vast extant literature).

My team and I would be happy to meet you to discuss further. We will disseminate the above points and continue campaigning for their implementation/ consideration. We are keen for the above points, if debated, to be referenced to our work and the evidence that we provided during all stages of the bill.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions. Thank you once again for giving us voice in this important matter.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Dr. Theo Gavrielides

RJ4All Founder and Director

  [1] RJ4All disclaimer: “victims” and “offenders” are not labels we find useful when referring to restorative justice. Gavrielides (2020; 2021; 2022) explains that as we change our lenses, these terms are better replaced with “harmed” and “harming” parties to put an emphasis on restoring and healing as opposed to correcting the law alone. 

Gavrielides, T. (2023). “Domestic Violence and Power Abuse Within The Family: The Restorative Justice Approach” in Sturmey, P. (Eds). Violence in Families in Book Series Advances in Preventing and Treating Violence and Aggression, New York: Springer. ISBN: 978-3-031-31548-0

Gavrielides, T. (2019). Collapsing the criminal labels of domestic violence: A social and restorative justice approach, London: RJ4All Publications. ISBN: 978-1-911634-15-7.
Gavrielides, T. (2018). “Victims and the restorative justice ambition: A London case study of potentials, assumptions and realities“. Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social, and Restorative Justice, pp. 1-22.

Gavrielides, T. (2019) Safeguarding and Empowering Crime Victims: Training manual: Restorative justice and the Victims’ Directive, London: RJ4All Publications. ISBN: 978-1-911634-09-6. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.10019.12327 

Gavrielides, T. (2017). “Collapsing the labels “victim” and “offender” in the Victims’ Directive & the paradox of Restorative Justice”. International Journal of Restorative Justice, Volume 5, Special Issue 3: Reimagining victims and restorative justice: the European Union, Canada and beyond, p. 368-381.

Gavrielides, T. (2016). Repositioning Restorative Justice in Europe: The Victims’ Directive”, Victims & Offenders Vol. 11, Iss. 1, pp. 71-86. 

Gavrielides, T. (2014), A victim-led criminal justice system for Europe: Addressing the paradox,  IARS Publications: London. ISBN 978-1-907641-27-5. 

Gavrielides, T. (2015). “The Victims’ Directive and What Victims Want from Restorative Justice”, Victims and Offenders Journal, Vol: 10. Issue 2. pages 1-22. DOI 10.1080/15564886.2014.982778 

Gavrielides, T. (2015). “Is Restorative Justice appropriate for Domestic Violence cases?”, Vol 14. Issue 4, Social Work Review. pp. 105-121.

2016 Justice Select Committee Restorative Justice Inquiry, Dr Theo Gavrielides expert witness –

Translate »