Restorative justice does help the victims

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I write in response to Michael Parker’s letter (July 3) regarding the decision of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, to fund the expansion of Restorative Justice services in the county.

I would most particularly like to address the inaccuracies in it. Mr Parker mentions his involvement in the Sheffield Victim Offender Mediation Project and says ‘a few years later, I became aware of a South Yorkshire Victim Offender Mediation Project based in Thorne, run by a few volunteers on a part-time basis which withered on the vine’.

He goes on to say that he is unaware of what ‘became of the project’. These two organisations are in fact the same. A decision was taken later to change the name of the organisation to ‘Remedi’.

Mr Parker is accurate in identifying that, in the very early years, the rate of service take-up was low but this must be put into context. At that time there was very little understanding of what we do – not only from the ‘man in the street’ but also from a statutory agency perspective as well.

Far from ‘withering on the vine’ Remedi has expanded services year on year ever since.

We employ 90 staff, 150 sessional workers and 100 volunteers and provide services in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Humberside, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester and Stockport. We hold the national contract to provide Restorative Justice services for homicide cases with Victim Support across the UK.

We are the largest single employer of Restorative Justice facilitators in the UK, were one of the first organisations to receive the Restorative Justice Council’s Quality Mark and winners of a Howard League for Penal Reform Community Project award – thanks largely to the solid bedrock established b in 1995/96.

I was deeply offended to read Mr Parker describe the founding managers of our organisation in such pejorative terms as this is simply untrue.

A staff turnover figure of 1.5 per cent over 19 years and the fact that 75 per cent of the current management team started with the organisation as volunteers is, I feel testament to that.

The funding provided by the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner this year has enabled us to enhance the service and to develop a model with South Yorkshire Police which will better ensure victims of crime in South Yorkshire (particularly in the adult criminal justice arena) have access to the service.

The approach taken by South Yorkshire Police has been inspired and testament to a clear commitment to improving services to victims. In the last year (prior to this funding) Remedi in South Yorkshire – supported 340 victims of crime through the restorative justice process with their offender.

99 per cent of those victims taking part were assessed as ‘very satisfied’ with their involvement and the outcome.

In addition in South Yorkshire – we organised 7,778 hours of community reparation work for offenders, supported 2,358 children in Sheffield schools, delivered victim awareness training to 950 offenders and mentored 230 offenders.

The support of the OPCC and the South Yorkshire Police Restorative Justice hub will enable us to do significantly more of this work.

This is not a ‘gimmick’ as asserted by Mr Parker in his letter. Restorative approaches make a real difference to people’s lives.

Steve Jones, Director, Remedi

by email