In order to locate literature on the subject of the success of restorative justice, books, journal articles, as well as governmental and organisational websites were reviewed. The research identified three main aspects of restorative justice to consider which are: the application of restorative justice, the impact of restorative justice and finally the effectiveness of restorative justice. These sub-topics are addressed and analysed in terms of relevance to the research question.
The Criminal Justice system has the overwhelming task of dealing with the constant and ever growing challenges of lowering the crime rates while enduring to uphold and maintain the public’s confidence in the criminal system (Brooks, 2017,). Restorative Justice could just be the answer the system is looking for as Brooks (2017) states that Restorative justice can lower offender rates by up to 25 percent. However, although this process is popular with the political process in Britain, it comes with its disadvantages as it is primarily only directed at the less serious crimes and youth offenders. On other hand, Marshall (1999) suggests that by using Restorative Justice with the more serious crimes there can be a lot of advantages in terms of the victim benefits, this process should only be used hand in hand with the criminal justice system and not as a substitute.
For many of the victims of crime seeing the offender held answerable for their offences by the use of the judicial system providing the victims with a level of closure thus allowing them to be able to move on from the crimes they have been a victim of is often enough. However, this is not the case with all victims of crime and the judicial process is not enough by itself, (Wright 2012). Restorative Justice is a process that provides the victims a voice that the Criminal Justice system often denies them, (Robb,2012). This is often in the form of mediation between the victim and the offender and has been set up to address some of the failings and limitations of the criminal justice system (Zehr, 1990). The process of Restorative Justice is conducted by means of offering victims the opportunity to have their say in the outcome of the offence/s and to have an input into the punishment of the offender, providing ways to improve and transform the way the victim’s needs are met, this process also allows the offender to face up to the consequences of their actions and the impact these have had on others (Ministry of Justice, 2012).
Zehr states that “Crime is a violation of people and relationships. It creates obligations to make things right. Justice involves the victim, the offender, and the community in a search for solutions which promote repair, reconciliation and reassurance “ (1990: 118). If this is indeed the case, then an integral part of the ‘search for solutions’ to repair the damage done by a crime being committed could be in the form of Restorative Justice, which essentially addresses the victim, the offender, and by extension the broader community in its objectives.
Victim satisfaction plays a critical and substantial part in police-victim encounters and this can play a primary and essential role in the willingness of victims to co-operate. With this in mind the victim’s willingness plays an extremely significant part of the process that allows Restorative Justice to continue to work successfully on behalf of the victim/s, (Aihio, 2017). It was suggested by Camp and Wemmers, (2013) that victimology studies have revealed that procedural justice such as Restorative Justice does continue to make a difference to the victims of crime in the terms of how the criminal justice system deals with the cases as they go through the system.
The Restorative Justice movement is a societal programme that is looking to work with and alongside the current punitive measures that are used by the Criminal Justice system, (Johnstone and Van Ness, 2007). Restorative Justice (RJ) is as defined by the Ministry of Justice is: “The process that brings those harmed by crime, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward” (Ministry of Justice, 2014 p3). However, the term Restorative Justice has been used as a way to reference the fact Restorative Justice has a large range of approaches and not one single practice (Brooks, 2017). Although a jointly recognised and concise definition of the term has yet to be established T, F Marshall’s (1996) definition appears to encompass the main principles of Restorative Justice and is perhaps one of the most used, “Restorative justice is a process whereby all parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future” (p. 37; cf Braithwaite, 1999, p.5). However, this quote suggests that the topic possibly becomes problematic to debate due to the large range and variety restorative Justice has to offer (Brooks, 2017). For the purpose of this dissertation Marshall’s (1996) definition for Restorative Justice that will be used.
Restorative Justice was a fairly fresh idea in the field of criminology in the 1980’s nevertheless it was also a recent, new concept that has not been seen and used in the United Kingdom (Daniels, 2013). Crawford and Newburn (2002) likewise states that Restorative Justice has been renowned as maybe one of the most extremely influential developments in crime control in today’s society. Restorative Justice is a process that was introduced to concentre mainly on the victim and the process of the Criminal Justice System as Christie (1977) states that the objective of Restorative Justice is for the offence to belong to the victim just as equally as it does to the offender Christie, (1977), cited that, “Not only has he or she suffered, lost materially or become hurt, physically or otherwise …but above all he has lost participation in his own case. It is the Crown that comes into the spotlight, not the victim. It is the Crown that describes the losses, not the victim. It is the Crown that gets the chance to talk to the offender, and neither the Crown nor the offender is particularly interested in carrying on that conversation. The prosecutor is fed up long since. The victim would not have been. He might have been scared to death, panic-stricken, or furious. But he would not have been involved. It would have been one of the most important days in his life. Something that belonged to him has been taken away from the victim. (1977: p7-8).
Christie (1977) states that the victim is the one that constantly misses out twice once as the victim of the original offence but then furthermore as a victim of the Criminal Justice System as there is an extremely improbable chance of being paid compensation for their loss. Furthermore, they play a very small role in whatever legal proceedings that follow nevertheless the use of Restorative Justice hands back this right and power back to the victims of crime.
Restorative Justice was originally introduced during the 1970s to manage low level crimes including burglary and other property crimes, however there was a confusion by the victims that Restorative Justice was about forgiveness, (Zehr, 2014). Zehr, (2014) also suggests that some victims do not have any understanding or belief in Restorative Justice as they are of the opinion that the fundamental destination of this process was to encourage or to persuade them to forgive their offenders.