Police training will help increase ‘restorative justice’ where offenders and victims meet in South Yorkshire
Police officers in South Yorkshire are to be trained in ‘restorative justice’ – where offenders and victims are put in contact – as part of a new £190,000 a year service.
The service will be provided by an organisation called Remedi, the biggest restorative justice organisation in Europe which grew from a small organisation launched on the Lowedges estate in Sheffield in 1996, and is funded largely by Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings.
He has committed £165,000 for each of two years to the new project, which may then be extended for another two years, with the rest funded by the South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company, which took over the less serious side of casework previously handled by the national Probation Service.
A new ‘hub’ will be formed at Snig Hill police station in Sheffield, where staff will deal with referrals from across the county to identify the cases which may benefit from restorative justice, which needs both the victim and criminal to be willing to take part.
Remedi already operate in the area and have been responsible for organising 27 ‘direct interventions’, where offenders and their victims meet, along with 130 where contact is through other means such as letters in the last financial year.
The target is to substantially increase those numbers, based on research which shows almost all victims who participate report significant benefits in coming to terms with their experience alongside a 14 per cent reduction in re-offending amongst the villains who get involved.
It is expected that at least 60 face-to-face meetings will take place each year the scheme is running, with 175 exchanges through other means.
That in turn leads to fewer future victims and reduces the burden on the criminal justice system, with every £1 spent on restorative justice expected to save £8 in the long term.
Assistant director of Remedi, Nicola Bancroft, said the new project would include offering training to police and other agencies involved in the justice system.
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The objective was to extend the scheme to include pre-sentencing meetings, where offenders were still being dealt with, and where police had dealt with offenders without going to court, such as through cautions.
Training for police would allow officers to get involved in some of the simpler cases, allowing the more highly trained and experienced practitioners to take on the more complex work.
“We will look at what is appropriate for an officer to deal with and what is appropriate to refer to Remedi,” she said.
“We want to get to the point where officers can send a task to us, so we can take a referral, with little time taken from the officer.
“At the point of sentencing, information will go to the hub for a decision on whether they should be offered the opportunity to take part in restorative justice,” she said.
Remedi grew from its base in Lowedges to working across the city and then Doncaster.
As the expertise of staff grew, work with the Probation Service began and support has come from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
PCC Dr Alan Billings admitted he had been sceptical about the benefits of restorative justice – until he attended a conference and saw details of the dramatic impact it had on allowing victims to accept what had happened and to move on with their lives.