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The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA) is working closely with parliamentarians to advocate for greater access to Restorative Justice services for victims of crime, ahead of the Victims and Prisoners Bill. As part of this, we have produced a briefing for parliamentarians, in partnership with CJA members Why Me? and the Restorative Justice Council, which sets out the value of  Restorative Justice for victims and highlights areas where the Bill could be improved in relation to this issue.

Recently, the government rejected the Justice Committee’s recommendation to include a ‘right to access restorative justice services’, which the CJA had advocated for in evidence to the Committee. We are disappointed with this decision but remain committed to continuing discussions with ministers and officials and will seek to put down amendments to the Bill. The intention of the recommendation is to ensure victims receive information to make an informed choice about restorative justice and to support them in coping and recovering from the harm they have experienced.

In this response to the Justice Select Committee, we recommend that the four overarching principles of the Victims’ Code set out in the Bill be expanded to reflect all 12 entitlements in the current Code. Furthermore, agencies should have a statutory duty to comply with the Code’s entitlements, and the Victims’ Commissioner’s powers should be strengthened to provide national oversight of the operation of the Code.

We emphasise that victims should have a statutory entitlement to be informed about restorative justice (RJ) and how to access RJ, and a statutory right to be automatically referred to an RJ service. We urge the government to reintroduce a national RJ action plan, which sets out how access, awareness and capacity will be improved within the criminal justice system. The government should publish its annual progress against this action plan, and a new plan should be developed and laid before Parliament at least every five years.

In this response to the government’s consultation on a new Victims’ Bill, we set out measures to increase access to restorative justice; improve support for people in prison who have been victims of crime; improve specialist services for children, young adults and Black, Asian and minority ethnic people who have been victims of crime; and to enhance complaints processes.

This is the CJA’s submission to the inquiry into the use of restorative justice and practices across England and Wales by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Restorative Justice. Drawing on focus groups held with restorative practitioners and academics as well as individuals working to influence policy, we make a series of recommendations in areas such as embedding a restorative culture in policing and the criminal justice system; improving public awareness of restorative justice and practices; and increasing inclusion in restorative justice and practices for people with protected characteristics.

The CJA and Why me? have worked with Baroness Molly Meacher on an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which will increase the use of Restorative Justice, with the aim of better supporting victims and reducing reoffending. The amendment will require the home secretary and the justice secretary to prepare a Restorative Justice Action Plan every three years to improve access, awareness, capacity and evidence of the use of Restorative Justice and practices. The home secretary and justice secretary will also be required to report on progress to parliament. This is a briefing for peers on the amendment.

In August 2020, we spoke to restorative academics and practitioners about how restorative justice, practices and approaches have been used throughout the pandemic to alleviate tension and conflict, in the criminal justice system and beyond. This culminated in our Responding Restoratively to COVID-19 report. Dr Jo Farrar, CEO of HMPPS, responds to the report in this letter.

This report focuses on how restorative approaches have provided a unique and effective response to the unprecedented challenges and tensions caused by COVID-19. We also explore how restorative approaches could be used to address the harms and trauma caused by the pandemic, build a better criminal justice system and create a safer, more cohesive and resilient society.

The briefing provides a succinct account of the current landscape for Restorative Justice and restorative practices in England and Wales. It is based on a survey sent to all police forces across the country and follow-up interviews.

The CJA has developed – with the support of a reference group of expert member organisations – a briefing outlining the potential benefits of introducing an entitlement in restorative justice.

The CJA has developed – with the support of a reference group of expert member organisations – a national cost framework for the delivery of restorative justice.

This response outlines the CJA’s views on restorative justice and the important role it has to play in meeting the needs of victims, and offering offenders the opportunity to repair some of the harm caused by their behaviour.

The CJA outlines our ambition for uptake of justice reinvestment principles and areas where there is growing evidence of impact in terms of crime reduction and other positive outcomes, principally restorative justice and problem solving in the courts.

This briefing sets out 10 key issues for incoming PCCs in relation to their role in delivering community safety and reducing crime including: reducing reoffending; resettlement, employment and housing; restorative justice and mental health.

Restorative justice involves everyone affected in a crime talking together about its impact, and what needs to happen to repair the harm caused. It takes place at any stage of the criminal justice system and outside it, and has clear benefits: high victim satisfaction rates, reductions in reoffending and cost savings for the criminal justice system, yet it is rarely used.

This briefing recognises a fresh approach to criminal justice policy is long overdue and suggests twelve problem areas within the adult criminal justice system that need urgent attention in the new parliament.