£300,000 to drive delivery of consistent services by 2023.
An action plan to provide voluntary, safe communication between victims and those who have harmed them in Scotland has been published.
Restorative justice brings together both sides of crime, harm or conflict to help victims move on while seeing perpetrators face the consequences of their actions.
Restorative justice has been proven to reduce the fear of further victimisation and symptoms of post-traumatic stress in victims, while several studies have also found evidence of a positive impact on reducing re-offending.
A new restorative justice action plan, backed by £300,000 of new investment, outlines steps to map existing provision, provide training and increase both public awareness, and the availability and consistency of services across Scotland by 2023.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:
“We are committed to developing a smarter justice system, with the needs of victims at its heart. Developing a restorative justice system will support those victims who choose this route, where appropriate alongside the criminal justice process, to move past traumatic harm. It can also make those who have caused harm better understand the impact of their actions, thereby helping to reduce the likelihood of more harm.
“We will ensure the voices of victims are heard as we deliver the actions, working collaboratively with experts from the public and third sectors to help shape it.”
Gemma Fraser, Improvement Lead for Community Justice Scotland who helped develop the action plan, said:
"Everyone harmed by crime in Scotland has a right to experience justice in a meaningful way – however, the system can often make victims of crime feel both voiceless and powerless over what has happened to them.
“Restorative justice allows victims to express the impact that harm has had on them, their family and community. Those who have offended are faced with the reality of this and asked to account for their actions and to payback in a significant way."
Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, said:
“We believe that Scotland’s Restorative Justice system must be voluntary, and have the wellbeing and protection of victims and witnesses of crime at its forefront. We are pleased that the action plan recognises this. When used effectively, restorative justice has the potential to support some victims through their recovery journey.”
Joanna Shapland of the University of Sheffield, who chairs the Restorative Justice Forum, said:
“This plan will help enable the good practice guidance issued by the Scottish Government to become reality, such that those who have been harmed and those who have harmed can access high quality restorative justice.
“Restorative justice has been shown internationally to produce significant benefits and the plan sets out clear steps towards its further implementation in Scotland. We have worked closely with the Scottish Government on both the guidance and the action plan and look forward to seeing these new developments come into being.”
The new Restorative Justice Action Plan sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for high quality restorative justice services, and the steps required to meet the aim of widely available provision across Scotland by 2023.
The Scottish Government aims to have restorative justice available across Scotland to all those who wish to access it, and at a time that is appropriate to the people and case involved.
Risk assessments must be carried out throughout the restorative justice process and take full account of the role of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as the independent public prosecution service for Scotland. Restorative justice will not impinge in any ongoing criminal proceedings.
The Restorative Justice Forum brings together key statutory and third sector agencies, practitioners and academics to develop policy and practice on restorative justice.
Scottish Government analysts recently published an evidence review paper, examining international case studies to identify different approaches governments have taken to provide access to restorative justice services. Overall, the evidence shows that restorative justice can reduce the likelihood of further offending, assist people to recover from the harm of crime, and provide greater satisfaction with the justice process.
A comprehensive Campbell Collaboration review of restorative justice conferences concluded that they caused “a modest but highly cost-effective reduction in repeat offending”, with the impact being more greatly experienced in crimes of violence than in crimes against property. Similarly, a Smith Institute evidence review concluded that “In general, RJ seems to reduce crime more effectively with more, rather than less, serious crimes”. A New Zealand evaluation found that the reoffending rate for those who participated in restorative justice was 7.5% lower over three years compared with offenders who had not gone through RJ, and offenders who went through RJ committed 20% fewer offences per offender within the following three years.