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Where is restorative justice heading?

Dr. Theo GAVRIELIDES19


Restorative justice has emerged from communities and through the passion of
dedicated practitioners, victims and offenders. The future is uncertain as
governments take interest in a top down and controlled version of this community led
ethos. The paper identifies three opportunities for restorative justice, alerting the
restorative justice movement that if it does not restore the damages caused by its own
power-interest battles, it will soon be diminished.
Opportunity for restorative justice no 1: missed?
For the past 13 years, I have been a restorative justice student and despite my
enthusiasm with the prospect of instilling something fresh into a broken criminal
justice system, I remained objective. Most of my public speaking and academic
articles would start in the same way: The focus of researchers should not be on the
superiority of restorative justice, but on the development of its processes and
principles (Gavrielides 2007; 2008; 2012a; 2013).
It is true that we have more evidence and writings on restorative justice than any
other criminal justice policy, and yet it is far from being used in the way that its
proponents hope. Whether this is a good or a bad thing remains to be debated. As one
practitioner said to me a few years ago When restorative justice works, it works
really well; but dont expect it to always be appropriate (Gavrielides, 2007). How
can we when one of the fundamental principles of restorative justice is voluntariness
meaning that it cannot be imposed on offenders and victims as if it is another form of
punishment.
We also have to ask whether restorative justice was ever meant or conceived to be
mainstreamed. As a believer of individual empowerment and the founder of a charity
that promotes community-led solutions for a better society, my question has always
been How can restorative justice, as a community born ethos (Daly and Imarrigeon
1998; Gavrielides 2012), enable the individual to have a genuine role in bringing
fairness to society. Following from this, What is the role of government, academics
and practitioners in facilitating this process; not for their own ends, but for the

19

Dr. Theo Gavrielides, Founder and Director of Independent Academic Research Studies (IARS),
Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Restorative Justice of Simon Fraser University, Visiting Professor
at Buckinghamshire New University and Panteion University and Visiting Senior Research Fellow,
Social Sciences Department, Open University.
Email: T.Gavrielides@iars.org.uk | Website: www.iars.org.uk| Twitter: @TGavrielides

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individual, let that be the victim, the offender, their family, friends and their
community.
Although I no longer consider myself to be a junior researcher, I accepted the
invitation to write for this special edition with great pleasure. My brief was to write
about where restorative justice is heading. Although I am not confident that I will do
justice to the request to be positive, I will seize the international and national
momentum of policy reform, and present my thoughts, fears and suggestions for the
restorative justice movement.
There are a number of definitions of restorative justice; Gavrielides (2008) explains
that these tend to be divided into two big groups. The first places emphasis on the
various types of restorative process, while the second highlights restorative outcomes.
There are also the wider, value-based definitions including Restorative justice is an
ethos with practical goals, among which is to restore harm by including affected
parties in a (direct or indirect) encounter and a process of understanding through
voluntary and honest dialogue (Gavrielides 2007, p. 139). Gavrielides argues that
restorative justice adopts a fresh approach to conflicts and their control, retaining at
the same time certain rehabilitative goals (ibidem).
Gavrielides understands the term ethos in a broad way. Restorative justice, in
nature, is not just a practice or just a theory. It is both. It is an ethos; it is a way of
living. It is a new approach to life, interpersonal relationships and a way of
prioritising what is important in the process of learning how to coexist (Gavrielides
2007,p. 139). For Braithwaite (1998) and McCold (1999), the principles underlying
this ethos are: victim reparation, offender responsibility and communities of care.
McCold argues that if attention is not paid to all these three concerns, then the result
will only be partially restorative. In a similar vein, Daly (2000, p. 7) said that
restorative justice places an emphasis on the role and experience of victims in the
criminal process and that it involves all relevant parties in a discussion about the
offence, its impact and what should be done to repair it.
The reflections that I am sharing in this paper were triggered by my recent visit to
Vancouver, British Columbia, where I was invited to give a series of lectures as part
of restorative justice week held every year in November. After being welcomed by
two of the most inspiring restorativist women I have ever met, Dr. Zellerer and Prof.
Morrison, my week started with meeting a dozen assistant Deputy Ministers,
currently working on a provincial grand plan to reform and improve the criminal
justice system. Following the August 2012 Geoff Cowper QC report A Criminal
Justice System for the 21st Century, the Minister of Justice committed to bringing
change. I left the meeting with a strong sense of hope, but with a bitter after taste of
reality. Most of the questioning was around savings, and what one would call the
business case for restorative justice. After quoting the usual thin evidence, I was
quick enough to come back to the question and address it by saying: If we are trying
to replace an apple that costs 5p with an orange that costs 4p and which promises the

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much needed vitamin C, then we have already lost. A true commitment will show
when we implement changes that will improve long term outcomes. But how naive
is this statement?
My answer was not evidence based. It was a reaction of what I am experiencing from
what is happening back home in the UK. The world economic crisis in combination
with the 2010 change in the UK government brought a number of institutional
restructures and a shift in the philosophy on public spending. Under the slogan of
Punishment and Reform, a number of public consultations were initiated including
some that were focused on probation services (Ministry of Justice 2012b). There
should be no doubt that substantial changes will occur to criminal justice service
provision nationally. The government has been honest about its intentions,
acknowledging that the criminal justice system is failing. The key concern principally
stems from the high reoffending rates (i.e. one in two offenders return to custody,
rising to 75% of young offenders).
According to the Offender Management Caseload Statistics, in 2009, the UK had 151
prisoners per 100,000 population, the second highest rate in Western Europe, below
Spain (Ministry of Justice 2010a). In England and Wales, the prison population is
forecast to rise to 94,000 before the next general election (Berman 2010, p. 1). These
failings are at an annual cost of 10 billion (National Audit Office 2010). In
December 2010, the UK coalition government published the Green Paper Breaking
the Cycle, announcing its intentions for key reforms to the adult and youth justice
sentencing philosophy and practice.
That is why the Government has embarked on wholesale reform I set
out radical plans to make sentences in the community more credible and to
reform probation so it is more effective in reducing crime, by extending
competition and opening up the management of lower risk offenders to the
innovation and energy of the widest possible range of providers.
(Ministry of Justice 2010c)
This brought restorative justice back onto the policy agenda. A number of ministerial
statements were made while millions of pounds have already been spent, or have
been committed, for training prison and probation staff and police officers on
restorative justice. I expressed my scepticism, alerting people to the lessons of the old
when the Labour Government launched its own public consultation, which then
resulted in their 2003 plan for introducing restorative justice in the adult criminal
justice system (Gavrielides2003). Billions of pounds were spent on various research
pilots, a restorative justice unit within the Home Office, conferences and training.
But restorative justice was never put forward as a consistent and available option for
victims, offenders and their communities.

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Therefore, I was surprised when in September 2012 I was asked to join a national
restorative justice steering group that was put together by our current Ministry of
Justice to construct a strategy that will support a well-intended legislation that would
introduce restorative justice at every stage of the criminal justice system. With much
hesitation and gratitude, IARS, the research centre that I direct, participated in this
project, which concluded its work on the first day of restorative justice week. The
new strategy Restorative Justice Action Plan for the Criminal Justice System was
then announced. We now know that in England and Wales, the informal application
of restorative justice by criminal justice agencies, including probation trusts, is about
to be formalised and mainstreamed. In the words of the Ministry of Justice:
The Governments plan for a rapid expansion of restorative justice
where victims of crime are given the opportunity to confront their offender
was boosted today with the publication of a new nationwide action plan
for the criminal justice system to coincide with International Restorative
Justice Week20.
This increase in interest in restorative justice will have direct impact on probation
services. For example, as part of its commissioning intentions for the 2013-14, the
National Offender Management Service (NOMS), the key governmental body
funding probation services in England and Wales set out a specific intention for both
prisons and probation trusts to continue to develop sustainable capacity and capability
to deliver effective face to face victim-offender conferencing, working with partners.
In their 2012 publication NOMS noted:
The Governments proposals for reforms to the sentencing framework
and the management of offenders outline a commitment to increase the
use of restorative justice. Additionally, the reforms on Community
Sentences include extending the use of restorative justice into the postconviction/pre-sentence period. NOMS commissioning intentions for
2013-14 reflect the ministerial and Agency commitment to deliver high
quality restorative justice for victims and offenders, and ask prisons and
probation Trusts, working with partners, to continue to develop their
capacity to deliver effective victim-offender conferencing. Some prisons
and Trusts are already delivering sustainable victim-offender
conferencing whilst others are still in the planning phase NOMS aims
to help Trusts and prisons develop the capacity to respond to requests for
restorative justice post-conviction; ensure that resource is targeted where
evidence suggests that it is likely to have the best outcomes; and ensure
that the restorative justice models delivered are effective and sustainable.
20

http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/press-releases/moj/plan-to-give-more-victims-a-voice-restorativejustice (accessed March 2013).

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But it is not all-good news for celebration. In fact, I humbly and with much hesitation
withdrew my membership to the national steering group as I felt that the proposed
structure and action points for the implementation of the strategy and proposed
legislation were top down, ignoring what I consider to be the heart and soul of
restorative justice i.e. its community born and community led ethos. In an open letter
to the responsible minister, I published my concerns21.
Going back to my restorative justice week in Canada, on my way back from Victoria
I met a family whose daughter was murdered and had agreed to meet one of the two
offenders who had been convicted with the crime. The mother said to me: Too often
people assume that victims want to see their offenders locked up in prison, playing
video games and learning how to become better criminals. We want accountability,
and to understand what happened; we want to see them doing something good. I also
met another victim who suffered from child sexual abuse and violence within gangs.
He said: To all those who hurt me in my childhood, I send them lots of love and I
hope they have had at least some of the opportunities to heal that I had How could
I ever forgive myself without seeing them as wounded people too? Both of these
victims now practise restorative justice spreading the message and its potential
benefits to communities.
But what has turned out to be the highlight of my restorative justice week was my
sharing through a circle that Dr. Zellerer facilitated as part of my presentation for the
AGM of North Shore Restorative Justice, a community-based service for Vancouver.
Staffed only with two paid members, the centre deals with over 100 cases per year
stretching from shop lifting to serious youth violence, complex cases and group
offending. With an annual turnover of just $100,000 and with the support of many
volunteers, I was thinking that maybe it is them that the dozen Ministers I met should
have listened to for an evidence based business case for restorative justice. With
less than $1,000 per case my case was rested. But was it?
As governments around the world take interest in restorative justice and set up new
strategies, legislation and funds to promote it, their role must be clear. Restorative
justice is not a product that can be mainstreamed and rolled out nationally. It exists in
small neighborhoods, in homes, churches, schools, tents, humid mediation centres
and, yes sometimes, in big fancy offices. Identifying central government
organisations or the governments usual suspects, big national bodies and celebrity
restorativists that can manage and indeed control how restorative justice is rolled out
is not only a waste of public money, but also an insult to the work that so many
people did and will continue to do despite being excluded or recognised.
As we were going around the circle, I came to realize that every single person who
practised restorative justice had a story to share. A story of pain as a victim or a story
21

http://iars.org.uk/sites/default/files/IARSNov2012.doc (accessed March 2013).

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of regret as an ex-offender. And this is what makes restorative justice special. It is the
communitys way of understanding and dealing with conflict. This is also a feeling
that was shared among the 21 prisoners who attended a circle with me at Ferndale
prison. Most of them were serving a life sentence.Restorative justice is done by kids,
by volunteers with no money, by everyone who feels responsible enough to do
something for their community How can you expect those people to register so that
they can practise? one volunteer facilitator ex-offender said.
This reminded me of a different type of workshop that I held in November 2010 on
behalf of Open University and IARS. The workshop was part of a larger project that I
have been running aiming to initiate an international debate that will assist the
development of improved practices, better-informed policy and more grounded
research on restorative justice. Over 40 experts in restorative justice field attended the
workshop. The Home Office, Youth Justice Board, Victim Support, Ministry of
Justice, Prison Reform Trust, Probation and several universities were among the
organisations represented. The issue of accreditation and standards was discussed.
There was consensus that innovation, standards and accreditation are complementary.
However, it was stressed that restorative justice is community born and hence this
must be accommodated. Top down approaches will fail. It was recommended that
practice must be involved in formulating qualifications. It is not good to have people
with qualifications but no practical experience while it would be a mistake to exclude
those with experience but no formal qualifications someone said (Gavrielides
2011b).
Braithwaite notes: While it is good that we are now having debates on standards for
restorative justice it is a dangerous debate. Accreditation for mediators that raises the
spectre of a Western accreditation agency telling an Aboriginal elder that a centuries
old restorative practice does not comply with the accreditation standards is a
profound worry (2002).
And let me stress the importance of standards because I have been misquoted, to my
surprise. In all my papers, I have stressed the risks that restorative justice brings. It is
not a soft option. It entails pain; not just for the offender, but also the victim and their
communities (Gavrielides 2013). This was my key contribution in the lecture that I
was very honoured to have been asked to give as part of restorative justice week and
in memory of Prof. Liz Elliott, a true believer of the kindness that we all have. I felt
compelled to respond to Lizs vision: Restorative Justice must be more than a
programme within the current system it must be a new paradigm for responding to
harm and conflict with its own philosophical and theoretical framework. Facilitating
this shift requires a re-thinking of the assumptions around punishment and justice,
placing emphasis instead on values and relationships.
By definition, any government has an expiry date and this puts an obligation, but also
political fears, that those changes must be done quickly and cheaply. I am fearful that
as restorative justice is being explored for its potential to bring about change that

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quick, ready-made packages are introduced. These will consequently harm its
delivery in the long-term. Mainstreaming restorative justice on the cheap is not the
answer. Providing 1-3 day training packages to police officers, probation staff and
prison guards will not deliver the restorative vision. Funding the usual suspects to
control a top down register for people who are practising restorative justice will not
increase public confidence in restorative justice; it will destroy it. It will also alienate
the big society of volunteers giving their time to keep local justice balanced.
Opportunity for restorative justice no 2: missed?
The second window of opportunity for restorative justice is to be found beyond the
UK boarders. Over the last 10 years, the European Commission has developed and
indeed shown keen interest in developing and supporting an evidence base for
restorative justice. Through a number of action grants, the Commission funded
hundreds of NGOs, governmental bodies and charities across Europe to research and
implement restorative justice.
The EU and the Council of Europes commitment to restorative justice can be found
in a number of documents including:

The Position of the Victim in the Framework of Criminal Law and Procedure
Council of Europe 1985 Recommendation No R(85)
Assistance to Victim and the Prevention of Victimisation Council of Europe
1987 Recommendation No R(87)21
The Social Mission of the Criminal Justice System Restorative Justice
Council of Europe 2005 Resolution No 2.
Mediation in Penal Matters Council of Europe 1999 Recommendation No
R(99)
The Standing of Victims in Criminal Proceedings, European Union 2001
Framework Decision, Resolution 40/43 1985
Establishing Minimum Standards on the Rights, Support and Protection of
Victims of Crime, EU Directive 2011/0129
EU Directive and Regulation on the Mutual Recognition of Protection
Measures.

Long battles have been fought by the victims and restorative justice movements to
move the victim from the margins to a more central position in the criminal justice
process. Following the new EC Victims Directive22, European governments now
have no other option but to become more responsive to victims needs and voices.

22

http://www.rj4all.info/system/files/rj_library/Directive%202012_29_EU_Victims_of_Crime.pdf
(accessed March 2013).

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In particular, the Directive establishes minimum standards and safeguards that must
be enforced by all criminal justice service providers to protect victims of crime as
well as family members of victims killed by a crime. Restorative justice and the
development of appropriate standards and protocols feature prominently in the
Directives articles. The directive was designed to ensure that:

Victims are treated with respect


Police, prosecutors, judges and criminal justice agents are trained in
sensitivity to victim
Victims are entitled to be kept informed of their case, in a manner that is clear
and understandable to them
Each member state shall have a designated victim support service
Victims can take part in proceedings and will be helped to attend the trial
States must identify vulnerable victims, such as victims of sexual assault,
disable victims or children, and must properly protect them
Victims are protected while police investigate the crime and during court
proceedings.

That is why my heart jumped when the Justice Minister said the following as he was
introducing his government Restorative Justice Action Plan: I want restorative
justice to become something that victims feel comfortable and confident requesting at
any stage of the criminal justice system. But this process has to be led by the victim
and be on their terms. If it doesnt work for the victim, then it should not happen.
These are not words that you get to hear often. There is a growing acknowledgement
that the individual, the victim, their family are the key to making restorative justice,
or I should just say justice, happen.
And there is one more reason why the interest of criminal justice agencies in victims
and restorative justice is increasing. The literature seems to suggest that often
offenders want to make amends. This can help desistance and integration (NOMS
2012a; 2012c). By working with victims and communities this target can be achieved.
This does not necessarily mean that offenders have to meet their victims. However,
they can be encouraged to find a role that they wish to take in the restoration of what
happened.
Focusing on restorative justice and probation services, the 2012 joint thematic
inspection by HMIC, HMI Probation, HMI Prisons and the HMCPSI23 found that the
probation trusts that they inspected for restorative justice had recognised [restorative
justices] contribution to improved community confidence. According to the report,
23

This resulted in the inspectorate report Facing Up To Offending: Use of Restorative Justice in the
criminal justice system which can be accessed via http://www.hmic.gov.uk/media/facing-up-tooffending-20120918.pdf (accessed March 2013).

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applying restorative justice where it is appropriate can also help improve outcomes in
relation to reintegration and recidivism of offenders.
The report noted that each trust that they inspected for restorative justice recognised
the multiple outcomes that could be achieved in particular increased victim
satisfaction and reductions in reoffending (Criminal Justice Joint Inspection 2012, p.
58). They also went on to say: We found impressive examples of the benefits that
restorative justice can bring to victims and offenders in complex or difficult cases
dealt with by probation services. Further examples where restorative justice has been
used successfully by other probation trusts need to be identified. For instance, IARS
has been working with Greater Manchester Probation Trust to evaluate the use of
restorative justice with those who have been convicted for offences following the
recent riots in England and Wales. In a bid to meet the changing needs of sentencers
and victims24, GMPT quickly developed a new intervention for courts called the
Intensive Citizenship, Responsibility and Consequences order (I-CRC). Within this, a
restorative justice intervention is provided (Gavrielides 2012b).
NOMS picked up on the potential of restorative justice to improve outcomes for
users. As part of its commissioning intentions for the 2013-14, NOMS set out a
specific intention for both prisons and probation trusts to continue to develop
sustainable capacity and capability to deliver effective face to face victim-offender
conferencing, working with partners.
But I fear that this second momentum is also going to be missed as victims voices
are again ignored. In its Action Plan, the Ministry of Justice identified one single
organisation for creating, enforcing and monitoring standards and quality control
restorative justice. In March 2013, this organisation announced on behalf of the
government the consultation on what they called Restorative Service Standards and
Restorative Service Quality Mark Framework25. Alongside these documents they
also produced the restorative justice monitoring and data collection templates as a
requirement for the quality mark. In order to qualify for a mark, restorative justice
practitioners will need to complete an online portfolio to show how each to these
indicators are met. This will be followed by a formal assessment by a consultant. In
order to enter into the process of assessment, a fee ranging from 3,000 to 1,500 will
have to be paid.
According to the consultation document, the standards and quality mark were drafted
by an expert steering group. How and who selected its members remains unknown.
What is certain, however, is that victims were not included. What is also certain is
that organisations representing and advocating for victims were also excluded from
the process.
24

Roz Hamilton, GMPT Chief Executive (accessed March 2012) http://www.gmprobation.org.uk/news/default_item.php?id=188


25
See http://www.restorativejustice.org.uk/news/rsqmconsultation/#.UU7ia7_DpUQ (accessed March
2013).

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All this in the backdrop of the aforementioned EC Victims Directive and two new
EU funded programmes aiming to construct an evidence base for the design of victim
led standards, training material, protocols and safeguards for the delivery of
restorative justice. The first is titled Restorative Justice in Europe: Safeguarding
Victims & Empowering Professionals (RJE), and is run by IARS while the second is
coordinated by the German Schleswig-Holstein Association for Social Responsibility
in Criminal Justice, Victim and Offender Treatment26.
If governments are truly committed to promoting restorative justice, then they need to
work closer with the communities that create the various models through which this
abstract umbrella notion of restorative justice is delivered whether it is called
mediation, circles, conferencing Try to mould and standardise restorative justice
and all you will achieve is its McDonalisation. Its diversity and ability to deliver
equity and fairness at a local level, its creativity and innovation will all die out.
Ignoring victims while imposing top down controls on restorative justice is not the
way forward.
Opportunity for restorative justice no 3: missed?
The third opportunity for restorative justice is to be found in the various cuts and
policy restructures caused by the world economic downturn. Implementing
restorative justice in a difficult financial climate instantly brings up the question of
cost and benefit. Although data on the financial viability of restorative justice are
extremely limited, it somehow managed to convince that it is a cheaper option for
governments.
This is mainly because the financial analysis of imprisonment is well developed
(Justice Committee 2010). In the UK, keeping each prisoner costs 41,000 annually
(or 112.32 a day). This means that if there are 85,076 prisoners at the moment,
prisons cost as much as 3.49 bn. According to Home Office statistics, it costs
146,000 to put someone through court and keep them in prison for a year (Prison
Reform Trust 2010). Moreover, according to a 2010 report by the New Economics
Foundation, a person that is offending at 17 after being released from prison will
commit on average about 145 crimes. Out of these crimes about 1.7 are serious
crimes (homicides, sexual crimes or serious violent offences). Given that a prison
sentence is estimated to increase the likelihood of continuing to offend by 3.9 per
cent, this translates into an average of about 5.5 crimes caused, out of which about
0.06 are serious (Knuutila 2010, p. 40).
In June 2010, the Justice Secretary said that prison often turns out to be a costly and
ineffectual approach that fails to turn criminals into law-abiding citizens (Travis

26

For further see http://rj4all.info/content/RJE (accessed March 2013).

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2010, p. 1). He also indicated the new governments appetite for seeking new and
more cost effective ways of reducing reoffending and serving justice.
The scarce evidence on restorative justice suggests that the savings that flow from the
contribution made to reducing reoffending rates are impressive; According to
Shapland et al. restorative justice can deliver cost savings of up to 9 for every 1
spent (2008). Victim Support also claims that (2010, p. 29), if restorative justice
were offered to all victims of burglary, robbery and violence against the person where
the offender had pleaded guilty (which would amount to around 75,000 victims), the
cost savings to the criminal justice system as a result of a reduction in reconviction
rates would amount to at least 185 million over two years. Furthermore,
according to Matrix Evidence (2009), restorative justice practices would likely lead to
a net benefit of over 1 billion over ten years. The report concludes that diverting
young offenders from community orders to a pre-court restorative justice
conferencing scheme would produce a life time saving to society of almost 275
million (7,050 per offender). The cost of implementing the scheme would be paid
back in the first year and during the course of two parliaments (10 years) society
would benefit by over 1billion (2009).
Time as a unit cost has also been recorded in the scarce available literature. For
instance, according to the 2010 Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) survey
on restorative justice, the average time taken by Hertfordshire police officers dealing
with minor crimes through street restorative justice was 36 minutes as opposed to 5
hours 38 minutes spent on issuing reprimands. Translating this into cost meant 15.95
for restorative justice and 149.79 for a reprimand. Similar savings were found for
Cheshire police (20.21 vs 157.09) (Cheshire Operation Quest 2 2009).
The belief that restorative justice can cut down costs had an impact on funders
intentions and priorities. For instance, the 2012-13 NOMS Business Plan states: We
will compete fairly in open markets ensuring expansion of work across the estate at
no additional cost to the taxpayer and including financial contributions to victims
services (NOMS 2012b).
The Ministry of Justice also seem to have taken a more cautious approach and a
different philosophy on how funds are spent on criminal justice. One of the results of
this new approach was the introduction of what is now called Payment by Results
policy. According to the Ministry of Justice:
Introducing payment by results means that we want to reward providers
when they are successful in reducing reoffending levels, rather than
providing upfront funding regardless of outcomes achieved. By
implementing a payment system based on achieving actual reductions in
re-offending rather than meeting input/output targets we think we can

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deliver improved public services at the same or less cost. This represents
a radical departure from the justice policies of previous governments.27
The Ministry of Justice stated their intention to contract out probation services for
low and medium-risk offenders to private companies and charities. Following a
targeted 2012 consultation that aimed at bringing tailored changes to the probation
services, 280 responses were received28. In their subsequent 2013 paper Transforming
Rehabilitation: a revolution in the way we manage offenders (Ministry of Justice
2013), the government is said to have reflected on these responses putting forward
proposals for reforming the delivery of offender services in the community to reduce
reoffending rates whilst delivering improved value for money for the tax payer
(Ministry of Justice 2013). One of the key objectives of these reforms is opening the
majority of probation services to competition, with contracts to be awarded to
providers who can deliver efficient, high quality services and improve value for
money (Ministry of Justice 2013).
It is expected that 70% of probations core work will be put out to competitive
tender29. All 35 probation trusts seem to have acknowledged that they have no other
choice but to accept the shift in government thinking on how public funds are
disposed for criminal justice. In a competitive market where private organisations are
well placed in preparing bids and maximizing resources, probation trusts also seem to
have acknowledged the need to deliver additional and better outcomes for their users.
This presents restorative justice with a unique opportunity to establish itself as
outcome focused practice that delivers better justice for all. Making claims that it
costs less however is not the right way forward. Further research is needed to support
this thin argument. While it appears that it is economically advantageous to society to
adopt a restorative approach to crime, research suggests that an appeal solely on this
basis may undermine restorative justice in the long run. For instance, there was
consensus among Gavrielides (2007; 2012a) interviewed practitioners that this could
lead to quick fix policies, a lack of a coherent and long term strategy and high
expectations. One practitioner said When it comes to asking money, the problem is
that restorative justice has a slow time delivery this is especially the case with the
Government where the money usually comes from. Funders, in general, want to see
results now, and treat restorative justice as a quick fix tool; this often leads to
disappointments and misunderstanding about what restorative justice really is and
what it can offer.
27

See http://www.justice.gov.uk/offenders/payment-by-results/the-challenge (accessed March 2013).


All 35 Probation Trusts of England and Wales sent their thoughts including LPT, to read the
http://www.londonresponse

probation.org.uk/pdf/LPT%20Response%20to%20Effective%20Probation%20Services%20Consultati
on.pdf (accessed March 2013)
29
As noted by NAPO, see http://www.napo.org.uk/about/probationunderthreat.cfm (accessed March
2013).
28

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The way funding is distributed for restorative justice has already raised concerns
among practitioners. In Gavrielides (2007) one practitioner noted: So, when you get
money from the Government, then it is likely that you get their agenda, and this
affects how to measure the value of restorative justice and its outcomes. Someone
else said: The government tends to give prime importance to reducing re-offending,
and although this might not be problematic as such, the way restorative justice has so
far been used suggests that is been treated as a means to an end.
If we are to seize this third opportunity, then restorative justice must be treated as a
practice and an ethos that is based on different principles from the ones that
characterise the traditional criminal justice system. The literature suggests that the
prioritisation of funding resources according to groups of parties involved in a crime
affects the sponsoring of restorative justice schemes as the restorative principles place
equal significance on all communities of interest. For example, funding specifically
allocated to rehabilitating offenders may not consider restorative justice schemes to
be fit for that purpose. Likewise, funding for victim support programmes may treat
restorative justice as something for the offender and indeed dangerous for the victim.
Funders and stakeholders need to either remain open-minded when assessing funding
applications for money allocated to specific parties, or introduce new funding streams
for restorative methodologies that focus on all communities of interests.
And there are further dangers in missing the third opportunity. One practitioner
noted: the term restorative justice is currently being used to label things that are in
no means restorative for either party involved. And there are a lot of reasons for this,
and one of them is money some people came along with their punitive practices
and labelled them restorative justice in order to get this money Hijacking funding by
non-genuine restorative justice programmes.
Funding bodies introduce time scales and performance measurement into funded
practices, and these usually undermine their effectiveness. Moreover, evaluation
needs to be large scale, and conducted at a sufficient length of time following an
intervention to accommodate re-offending data. Scheme co-operation must be a
condition of any funding arrangements. If progress is to be made in assessing the
outcomes of restorative justice projects and in finding genuine restorative practices,
resources would be better spent on implementing well-designed projects with clearly
defined aims and methods, and with evaluation built in from the start.
It appears that most restorative justice practices are run in the community by
voluntary and community sector organisations and groups (Marshall 1996, Johnstone
2002). Although this allows a considerable level of flexibility into the development
and management of these schemes, it also adds a number of challenges. Voluntary
and community projects are most of the times under-resourced and understaffed
while most of the times are not seen by statisticians, criminal justice officials and
governmental bodies as contributing to crime prevention.

PROBATION junior 91

Commentators have repeatedly stressed the important role of these projects in


promoting a feeling of empowerment and belonging in community groups. Voluntary
organisations help maintain a balance between community groups often feeling
isolated and let down by public services and government. They establish
communication channels between individuals and government bodies, and enable
small and large minority groups to have a say in policymaking, legislation and
regulation of the countrys affairs.
The vast majority of their activity takes place at a local level, often addressing the
needs of society's most disadvantaged groups. Statistics also show that the public
trusts these groups more than other criminal justice services. Charging these
organisations with a 1,500 fee to acquire a mark that will allow them to practise
what is rightly theirs marks the beginning of the end for restorative justice in the UK.
Concluding thoughts
In this paper, I identified three opportunities for restorative justice as these are created
by the current economic climate, the EUs interest in victims as well as the UK
governments focus on outcomes. In the years that I have been researching restorative
justice, I have witnessed a power-interest battle within the restorative movement,
which included not only different professionals (e.g. practitioners vs theoreticians),
but also types of practices (e.g. mediation vs family group conferencing) as well as
fundamental restorative justice principles (e.g. voluntariness vs coercion). Although
constructive debates are always essential for the advancement of criminal justice
doctrines, it is my conclusion that if the restorative movement does not restore its
own power struggles, the discussed opportunities will be missed.
Back in 2003, one of my interviewed practitioners said to me:
I think the challenge right now is that there are lots of movements within
the restorative justice field, lots of research, people such as yourself that are
trying to reconcile all these different aspects of restorative justice, and this, I
think, is crucial. All these people are moving, but not together. People are
grappling with their research [to find] where and how restorative justice [can]
fit in the criminal justice system, what kind of offenders [it can engage],
[what] type of offences [it can deal with], periods of time [needed] etc and
there needs to be a real joined thinking about all these matters In fact, we
are all grappling with where, and who, and for what restorative justice should
be used, and I think there needs to be a pulling together. We still dont have
all the answers, but this step should help to bridge the gap Besides, this was
one of the reasons I was attracted to this field and I think this should be the
next step for restorative justice, to pull it all together (Gavrielides 2007).

PROBATION junior 92

Restorative justice was reborn not out of formal structures and legislation, but of
voluntary action by enthusiastic and dedicated practitioners from around the world.
As the restorative tradition is now expanding to deal with crimes, ages and situations
that it has never addressed before at least in its contemporary version and as it
starts to make sense in national, and also regional and international forums, then the
responsibilities of both restorative practitioners and academics redouble. Bridges
must be built in order to synthesise.
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