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Police Use Of Restorative Justice In England And Wales

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What is restorative justice?

Restorative justice is the process to involve those who have a stake in a specific offence and to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligation, in order to put things as right as possible (Howard Zehr)

It brings those who have been harmed by crime and conflict into communication with those responsible for the harm, in order to repair the harm in a positive way. The program aims to get offenders to understand their actions and take responsibility for them, to understand the harm they have caused to the victim, and to give them the opportunity to redeem themselves, discouraging them from causing any further harm. 85% of victims who go through Restorative Justice are satisfied with the experience.

What are the steps of restorative justice?

Either the perpetrator or the victim of the crime can ask for restorative justice, this process can take place at any point in the criminal justice system.

The first step would give the victim the opportunity to talk to a restorative practitioner about how the crime had impacted the, how they are feeling about it now, and what they want to happen next. Both the victim and the perpetrator would need to give consent for restorative justice to take place.

Once both parties agree they will be prepared for a meeting, will meet each party separately to discuss what they would like to say, these meetings will continue until they are fully prepared for the Restorative Justice Conference.

The meeting will take place and each party is able to have support with them, whether it be a family member or a friend, they sit in a circle and ground rules are set, these include no breaks, interruptions or stopping the process until it is finished. The person who committed the crime will receive a set of questions from the facilitator, and then the victim will be asked the same in order to open a dialogue between the two.

The last step is a follow up to determine that both parties were satisfied with the outcome of the process.

Restorative justice in the police.

Marshall (1996) states that restorative justice was used for the first time in 1979 by the Exeter Youth Support Team, they began to offer victim-offender “meditation” and contacted their local police force for referrals. It was not until the late 1990’s however, that restorative justice was formally introduced into the English police force by Sir Charles Pollard who had imported the idea from Australia in demonstrating police-led restorative conference. From April 1998, after being trained in restorative cautioning, officers in Thames Valley were told that ‘all police cautions, were meant to be restorative in nature’ (Hoyle, et al., 2002). Evaluation showed that there were some changes in practice and culture were evident, the process of cautioning was also improving. Restorative cautioning declined in Thames Valley after a change in leadership and Richards (2010) explains how even in Australia, officers were stripped of their facilitation duties, even with the positive research findings.

It was not until the late 2000’s that restorative justice re-emerged within the English police forces as an explicit policy, introduced as the Youth Restorative Disposal. However, early studies were showing that the victims and offenders were not able to make decisions collectively or open a harm-focused dialogue (Rix, et al. 2011).

The biggest development would be related to introducing a broader government governmental strategy surrounding restorative justice. There have been significant resources being invested into the expansion of Restorative justice since 2012. The Ministry of Justice released several action plans after the European Unions Victims’ Directive was implemented. These action plans stated the intent to make restorative justice a service generally available to the public across England.

Ministry of Justice (2015) declared that English force were now required to share information of victims with local restorative justice services, and the use of restorative justice was now authorised at the pre-sentence stage and by probation. Whilst restorative conferences are rare, street restorative justice is common. It would often involve police dominated, informal dispute resolutions with little contact between the parties.


Restorative justice implementation

In 2010, the use of restorative justice within the UK police forces is increasing at a significant pace. Restorative justice is…now being utilized as a problem-solving tool by Neighbouring Policing Teams (Shewan 2010). Restorative practices are widely used across most forces in the UK, research has shown how restorative justice can be integrated into police practices when they respond to community calls when they require service. If restorative justice can be implemented as a service that police officers can refer, it changes an individual’s perception of the role of police officers within the implementation of restorative justice.

Greater Manchester has been at the forefront of restorative justice and its use within the police force, following its successful eight-week trial, the greater Manchester police force made the decision to role out restorative justice across the force. There was a training team established and started in 2010. This was key to the success of the implementation of RJ and allowed officers to make the informed decisions and act at the victims’ best interest. The training helped to ensure that restorative justice was not used inappropriately, there is certain, careful consideration that needs to be taken when it is needed for certain situations, such as sexual offence or domestic violence.

In 2013 restorative justice use accounted for 16% of all solved crimes, just over 8000. The benefits were clear, improved efficiency, reduced reoffending rates, reduced costs and increased satisfaction of the victims. With an estimated £700,000 saved in a period of 12 months.

Restorative justice in action

The restorative practices are embedded with the forces and officers that refer to practice in relation to the levels. Level 1 is referred to street restorative justice, this was on the spot responses to a minor offence, usually for out of court disposals. Level 2 would be where the officers will use a face to face conferencing meditation, messages are delivered to both parties by a trained facilitator, this level of restorative process is used for more serious or persistent offending. Level 3 is for the most serious and complex offenses; it is usually conducted after sentencing and the offender is serving a custodial sentence. These are often led by experienced specialists. Restorative justice should operate at aa scale with specified standards, to be effective in meeting the needs of the victims and offenders. It should be integrated with other interventions such as drug treatment, employment and housing support. The action plan consisted of Access, providing high quality and easy access to restorative justice. Awareness, making the public and the criminal justice system aware of restorative justice. Capacity, making restorative justice facilitators available across the country. Evidence, to understand the impact on victims, offenders and the community.

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To improve access an amendment was made to the crime and courts bill to allow the courts to defer sentencing in order to allow for restorative justice. Awareness has yet to be raised in both the public and the criminal justice system. Capacity was strengthened by training more than 18000 police on restorative justice. The youth justice boards are also building their capacity to deliver restorative justice to the public alone. Evidence was provided by evaluations that commissioning bodies would have the responsibility to undertake as they develop their programmes. The most recent report provided shows an account on the thematic issues, but does not provide a detailed account of the restorative justice practice and the effects it has on each sector; youth, adult, out of court and pre/post-court.

Restorative justice and community resolutions

Both RJ and community resolution have been shown to be able to reduce bureaucracy, achieve efficiency savings, at the same time as delivering on performance targets (Shewan 2010).

While the formation of restorative justice has evolved in order to improve its efficiency, there were a number of challenges highlighted due to the blurring of boundaries between the community resolutions and restorative justice.

Community resolution was defined by the Sentencing Council as: “An informal non-statutory disposal used for dealing with less serious crime and antisocial behaviour where the offender accepts responsibility. The views of the victim (where there is one) are considered in reaching an informal agreement between the parties, which can involve restorative justice techniques.”

Level one, from the above statement, seems to have been redefined from ‘street restorative justice’ to ‘community resolution’ due to the lack of interaction during an incident and the parties involved. These boundaries between the two had extended beyond practice and included how officers were recording what they were doing in terms of restorative justice in communities.

There have been several strategies brought forward to attempt to distinguish the differences between restorative justice and community resolutions. An out of court disposal team was created to determine the most appropriate outcome for every case, seeing as one centralised team would be making all of the decisions, the benefits that were already showing before the teams’ creation would increase significantly.


Delivery and quality

Evaluating and monitoring restorative justice is more consistent, that being because of funding being provided by PCCs. Data provided on the delivery and quality seemed to have been collected by force, or by providers reports carried out every three months. There were regular meetings to monitor performance started by the OPCC in order to monitor the data output.

There were 73% of forces that reported monitoring the delivery of their restorative practices through statistics, yet, 56% said they had used detailed research and around 36% preferred the methods of observation to monitor the delivery of the practices.

There were 55% of forces that had reported their provisions had been subjected to an external evaluation, the Restorative Justice Council, however, were the ones who were carrying out most of the external evaluations. There was only around 38% of forces who received an internal evaluation.

Reoffending statistics

The use of RJ by police officers and working with partners such as schools and YOTs is enabling the police to see that it is contributing toward a reduction in the frequency and severity of re-offending (Shewan 2010).

There is a significant lack of data in relation to the reduction in reoffending from those who had gone through with restorative justice. There seemed to be incidents where forces still had to track down who had gone through this practice, the figures that were recorded were more than likely personal views on whether the individuals were going to be less likely to reoffend. Senior officers reflecting on positive outcomes that they had seen from previous candidates of restorative justice.

There were many who reported that they were looking for the figures in order to collect more significant data in terms of reoffending.


The impact of restorative practice across police forces in the UK brought about a number of questions, these focused on the satisfaction of the offender, the victim and whether the public had gained confidence in the practices. There were benefits of using restorative justice to improve police-community relations borught up, as well as improving services to victims and the communities.

Restorative practices, in relation to victim satisfaction, was highly praised, over 90% of the victims who went through with the practice were highly satisfied with the outcome. Some victims had even came forward saying that they felt more able to cope with what happened to them due to the increased happiness and content they felt after using the service.

There was less feedback in terms of the offenders, many just noted that it was not something they felt the need to measure, but for the few that did, they highlighted the practice for “empowering offenders to take responsibility for their actions and behaviour, as well as encouraging them to resist reoffending.


  1. Leanne Fiftal Alarid & Carlos D. Montemayor (2012) Implementing restorative justice in police departments, Police Practice and Research,
  2. MoJ. (2013) Code of Practice for Youth Conditional Cautions. Online. Available from:
  3. NPCC. (2017) Charging and Out-of-Court Disposals: A National Strategy. [Online]. Available from: 0Disposals%20A%20National%20Strategy.pdf
  4. Restorative Justice Council, 2014. Restorative justice and policing (pages 10-12)
  5. Shewan, G. (2010) A Business Case for Restorative Justice and Policing. [Online]. Available from: for_restorative_justice_and_policing.pdf

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Police Use Of Restorative Justice In England And Wales. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 6, 2023, from
“Police Use Of Restorative Justice In England And Wales.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
Police Use Of Restorative Justice In England And Wales. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Jun. 2023].
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