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30.10.12

National roll-out for restorative justice planned

Restorative justice is to be expanded, and more offenders will be required to meet their victims and apologise before sentencing.

The national roll-out of the scheme will be embedded in the process of courts across England and Wales, in an attempt to provide victims with closure and cut re-offending rates.

Details are to be set out in a new clause of the crime and courts bill being debated in the House of Lords. Restorative justice is presently used in relatively few areas, but surveys show that victims reported an 85% satisfaction rate, the Ministry of Justice stated, with a drop in re-offending of around 14%.

An extra £20m funding will be provided to improve training for police, probation officers and youth offending teams for the roll-out.

The justice minister, Lord McNally, told the Guardian: “We will now put restorative justice on a statutory footing which gives it greater credibility and shows that it is not just a sideshow. It ticks boxes both for those who want to see a more central role for the victim and those who see it as a real factor in rehabilitation. No matter how much you think that prison works, it's a very expensive system.”

He added that restorative justice was “a proper practice where both the victim and offender have to agree to the process. It will hopefully influence future behaviour but will not affect the sentences that will be passed for the offence. It's not a trade-off with other sentences. It’s about getting closure”.

“It’s not woolly liberalism if you can cut reoffending rates. We are not presenting it as an alternative to prison – but prison is very expensive. So we are looking for more cost effective measures to change behaviour and save future victims.

“If we can, by a variety of measures, get reoffending rates down from 50% … If we could really cut into reoffending rates we would be making a huge saving for the taxpayer.”

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