Is it true that restorative justice is only used in the youth justice field?
No, though many countries have primarily targeted restorative justice with young people who have harmed, there are many examples of its beneficial use with adults and with serious offences. Indeed, the research evidence suggests that those who have been harmed by serious offences say they have been helped more by restorative justice than those harmed by less serious offences.
Is there a ‘right time’ to participate in restorative justice?
Restorative justice should be available at different stages of the criminal justice process as well as after it has finished. It’s obviously necessary that the person who has harmed has been identified in order to be able to communicate with him or her, but it is also important that people are able to access it at a time which is good for them – and that will vary from person to person.
Is restorative justice a soft option?
From the research results, that is not what those who have harmed would say. They say they are often more nervous at the prospect of communicating with or meeting the person they have harmed than going to court. Meeting up with the person harmed means answering questions, where possible, and accounting for one’s actions. See also the myth busters section.
Will those who have harmed not just go along with restorative justice to get reduced sentences?
Some offenders may ‘go along’ with restorative justice because they think they might get a reduced sentence. However, participating does not necessarily mean any reduction in sentence. The restorative justice process itself can also be transformative in making those who have harmed realise the effects they have had through their offending, and be a step towards rethinking their attitude to offending.
What training do restorative justice facilitators have?
The training should cover the aims and values of restorative justice; how to do it in practice safely and prepare potential participants properly; how to run restorative justice meetings; and how to keep everyone informed of what is happening. In order to take on more complex or serious cases, facilitators will need to have additional training and greater experience from managing previous conferences.
What happens if I agree to participate in a restorative justice process and then change my mind?
You can decide to pull out of the restorative justice process at any point and that will be respected.
Will I definitely get an apology from the person who has harmed?
That is up to the person who has harmed in your particular case. Many people who have harmed have been concerned that there has not been an opportunity to apologise to the person harmed, and want to do so. In other instances, particularly for serious offences, the participants may all feel that an apology is too little and not appropriate.
I have heard it is dangerous and irresponsible to facilitate restorative justice meetings between victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse. Is that true?
It depends on the individual case. Restorative justice must always be done safely and it may not be possible for that to happen if the person who has harmed may try to manipulate the person harmed or otherwise traumatise them. In other instances, both parties, given the circumstances they are now in, may wish for that communication and it may be possible to provide it safely.
What happens if as a victim I just completely lose it when I see the offender face-to-face?
If you are worried about this, you should discuss it with the facilitator in the preparation phase. It is normal to feel somewhat nervous about communication. If something like that were to happen, then it is always possible for people to have a ‘time out’ if that would be helpful.
I was offered the opportunity to participate in restorative justice as a person harmed and said no, because it wasn’t right for me then. But now I’ve changed my mind. Can I now access it?
Yes, contact the people who made you the original offer. This is quite common – and it is important that those who have been harmed can access restorative justice (if the person who has harmed agrees) later on, and indeed the research evidence shows that people who have been harmed are often happy to have a second offer made to them.