Uses of Restorative Justice: evidence review

Review looking at international case studies to identify different approaches governments have taken to provide access to Restorative Justice services.

The uses of restorative justice: Key points

Overall, the evidence shows that Restorative Justice (RJ) can reduce the likelihood of further offending, assist people to recover from the harm of crime, and provide greater satisfaction with the justice process.

The Council of Europe recommends that Member States “should develop the capacity to deliver restorative justice in all geographical areas in their jurisdictions, with respect to all offences, and at all stages of their criminal justice processes”.

Scotland has some small-scale RJ services but they are restricted to certain geographical areas. As in Northern Ireland, RJ provision is mainly limited to youth crime and, for the most part, addresses less serious offences.

A centralised model is a common feature of more comprehensive and effective RJ systems, but the type of provider varies.

Norway and Belgium have the most comprehensive RJ systems of all the European jurisdictions we examined, offering RJ at each stage in the criminal justice system and for any age and offence type.

It is common for RJ to be used before sentencing to allow outcomes to be fed into sentencing decisions.

RJ for young people is more universal in the jurisdictions we examined, but adult provision is still widespread.

Restorative justice is used for serious offences in a number of jurisdictions but this requires more stringent practice guidelines and highly trained facilitators.

Referrals can be increased if both victim and offender can request RJ, as is the case in Belgium.

The purpose of this paper

This paper aims to support the policy development and delivery of Scotland’s Restorative Justice (RJ) vision and strategy, by giving examples of the breadth of ways RJ is implemented in other countries. It is intended to demonstrate that RJ can be, and is, applied broadly across different offences, offenders, and stages of the justice process, rather than to provide a complete picture of RJ internationally. Sources were identified through recommendations from RJ experts, as well as during staff attendance at a meeting of the European Forum on Restorative Justice. The jurisdictions reviewed are: England and Wales, Northern Ireland, Norway, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia and Colorado. England and Wales, N. Ireland, Colorado, Australia and New Zealand have an adversarial legal system, making findings particularly relevant to Scotland.



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