Restorative Justice is a technique that can bring great results. However, when it comes to victims experiencing significant vulnerability, we believe RJ should come with a warning “Use with Care”.
We have not focused much attention on the Restorative Justice element of dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour and we are not aware of how extensive the use of the Community Remedy has been.
We have heard from some individual victims who have questioned the suggestion by police that they meet with their harasser or stalker (and at times this suggestion has been quite forceful). It was therefore comforting to read that this is an issue recognised by the police and was specifically mentioned in a speech the Home Secretary delivered last month at the Police Federation Annual Conference. Speaking first about domestic violence, Theresa May said:
“I know that restorative justice is meant to be victim-led and I know that guidance says it should be considered in all cases. But I simply do not believe it follows either the evidence or common sense to sit vulnerable victims across from perpetrators who for months and years may have destroyed their confidence, manipulated their mind, and beaten their bodies.”
She then specifically mentioned victims of stalking and harassment as among the vulnerable people neglected by the police. We are glad to see that this has been noted. There is a recognition that these crimes are still investigated with different tools and often less urgency than other crimes that pose much less risk to individuals and communities.
The purpose of creating the new anti-social behaviour legislation in 2014 was to put victims first and give the police and other agencies quicker, more effective powers to bring respite to those victims. It is concerning, then, to learn that harassment and stalking are still not being tackled as a matter of urgency. As the Home Secretary went on to say:
“As HMIC found last year, not a single police force in England and Wales is outstanding at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims, and 31 forces are judged to be either inadequate or requiring improvement.”
We have been invited to be part of a police-led ASB vulnerability working group, seeking to develop a cross service / agency vulnerability toolkit and assessment process. The hope is that this group will help drive national standards in this key area through building up appropriate products as well as sharing good practice. It is good to see steps being taken to address these failings and we are delighted to have the opportunity to share the experiences we hear from victims of anti-social behaviour, with a view to ensuring they get a better service and sensitivity to their particular situation.
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