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.
The CJA recommends the removal of the exclusionary rule and for the return to a discretionary system which was in place prior to 2012. This would mean decision-makers in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) can exercise discretion in order to compensate those with unspent convictions, where there are exceptional reasons for an award not to be withheld or reduced.
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.
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.
Routes to Recovery draws on discussions with CJA members in virtual meetings in June and July. The report highlights challenges and good practice during COVID-19 across policing, courts, prisons, probation and resettlement, victims’ services, mental health and drug and alcohol services. The report also provides recommendations for policy makers, highlighting how they can build a better criminal justice system following the pandemic.
The CJA has responded to the Consultation on Improving the Victims’ Code. In our response, we call for a right for victims to be referred to a Restorative Justice service.
In this briefing, which is a response to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on the Home Office’s preparedness for COVID-19, the CJA gives recommendations on policing and supporting victims.
In this briefing for the Women and Equalities Select Committee, the CJA discusses the impact of COVID-19 on those with protected characteristics within the criminal justice system.
On 7 May 2019, the CJA and the Ministry of Justice’s Race Disparity team hosted a policy forum on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) victims of crime with the objective of improving understanding around the specific needs and issues of BAME victims and what more could be done to support them. This briefing note reflects the key themes discussed at the meeting and includes anonymised quotes.
Our response to the Ministry of Justice and Home Office consultation on the response to domestic abuse considers best practice for perpetrators and victims, including victims who go on to offend.
Our consultation response to the Sentencing Council’s draft guidelines on early guilty pleas highlights our concerns that the proposed changes will not benefit enough victims and witnesses and it could unnecessarily increase the prison population.
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.
This report highlights the experiences of victims, witnesses and defendants of criminal trials in the Crown Court
Minimising unnecessary and undue delays within the criminal justice system is something the Criminal Justice Alliance welcomes. Uncertainty around timings and court appearances alongside unnecessarily protracted cases can lead to increased expense, stress for victims and witnesses and cause anxiety and insecurity for offenders and their families and dependents.
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.