New scheme could bring ‘closure’ for hundreds more crime victims

Hundreds of crime victims will be given the chance to talk to their offenders every year in South Yorkshire under a ‘restorative justice’ scheme which puts them face-to-face or in contact by letter, following a move intended to bring ‘closure’ to those affected.
Dr Alan BillingsDr Alan Billings
Dr Alan Billings

It is also hoped the scheme, being funded by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, will bring additional benefits in helping criminals understand the impact their behaviour has those affected by the offences they have committed.

Dr Billings has funded a scheme which will operate for three years, with a target of putting 230 victims in touch with the offender responsible in each of those years, meaning a total of around 800 people could benefit over its lifespan.

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Restorative justice relies on a willingness to take part from both parties, with most contact expected to be through letter or other forms of messaging, but in some cases face to face meetings will be arranged, either at prisons or in suitable locations in the community.

The technique has been used previously, but the new scheme will involve many more victims and encourage ‘self referrals’ by making details known through community organisations, faith groups and other means.

An organisation called Remedi is being used to organise the mediation, which will be available throughout the county.

The PCC said his opinion on the success of restorative justice had been swayed by a meeting with a woman who’s car had been stolen and wrecked, causing many logistical problems because she relied on the vehicle for important journeys.

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She ended up meeting the offender through restorative justice and after hearing details of his life’s circumstances ended up part funding him to attend a college course.

Dr Billings accepts those circumstances are an extreme example, but said it illustrated the positive results restorative justice could achieve.

“That is an extraordinary outcome and they are not all like that,” he said.

“Her first reaction was, why did he pick on me? There was no reason, but she took it in a personal way.

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“It can work, it doesn’t work every time and it is not for everybody,” he said.

Nicola Bancroft, assistant director at Remedi, said the project could only operate where an offender was identified for a crime and where the victim and criminal were willing to become involved.

South Yorkshire’s Community Rehabilitation Company was also providing finance, she said, in a move to allow Remedi to work with offenders.

A target has been set for four out of ten of those receiving attention to go on to at least express an interest in taking part in restorative justice.