Restorative justice plan just a gimmick

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Back in 1995/96 I was one of the founding volunteer members of the Sheffield Victim Offender Mediation Project that aimed to address the impact of an offence on the victim, the offender and wider community, by providing both victims and offenders with the opportunity to communicate directly or indirectly through a third party.

Primarily it aimed to make the offender acknowledge the seriousness and impact of their crime on the victim and motivate him or her to refrain from indulging in further criminality, while looking to make amends to their victim.

This was supposedly backed up by valid academic research and was a model of restorative justice emanating from the USA.

However, in reality, very few of those offered the opportunity to participate in mediation chose to do so.

But as potential participants were based in one police division only in the initial stages, it was hoped that expanding it citywide would result in greater interest and participation rate; but to no avail.

So the idea of expanding the area of operation South Yorkshire wide eventually took hold, but only in the sense of starting up projects along the same lines in Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham.

The management of the project also left a lot to be desired, with paid workers seemingly primarily interested in retaining compliant volunteers willing to worship at the altar of their egos, while talented people with a flair for making a success of the limited opportunities they became involved with, consequently found themselves manoeuvred out. So what eventually became of the project I know not.

But 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.

It was therefore with great surprise that I read in The Star (June 3) of Dr Alan Billings’ stated intention to seemingly reincarnate the Victim Offender Project, which is supposedly based on evidence of victims’ overwhelming satisfaction borne of participation.

Perhaps he could provide details of the “evidence” and where the funding is coming from and how much over what period?

For I suspect that it is just a gimmick, whose real aim is to create a few paid employment opportunities for the chosen few for a period, which will have very limited beneficial effect.

Michael Parker

Robertshaw Crescent, Deepcar, Sheffield, S36