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.


Comprehensive, consistent national provision of RJ is associated with ring-fenced funding, centralised coordination and putting RJ on a legislative footing. Norway and Belgium have the most comprehensive RJ models we reviewed and are highly regarded by experts. However, it was hard to find evaluations translated into English within the time-frame of this review.

In jurisdictions with similar justice systems to Scotland, it is common for RJ to be used either as diversion from prosecution or before sentencing, to allow outcomes to be fed into sentencing decisions. Although RJ for young people is more universal in the jurisdictions we examined, adult provision is still widespread and restorative justice is used for serious offences in a number of jurisdictions, although this requires more stringent practice guidelines and highly trained facilitators.

Community volunteers, third sector partners and professional mediators all deliver RJ but there is currently little evidence on which delivery model may be most effective.

In a recent review of the evidence on RJ in Scotland, Kirkwood concluded that there are “many opportunities for increasing the use of restorative justice in Scotland as a response to crime”[46]. He proposed that there are 3 main parts of the Scottish criminal justice process where restorative justice could be used:

  • As an alternative to prosecution for adults or diversion from formal processes for young people
  • At the point between conviction and determination of sentence
  • When a person is in prison, on license following imprisonment or on a community sentence.

Kirkwood also suggested that RJ could be used during a deferred sentence after conviction and before sentencing (this is the model currently used in New Zealand).

As demonstrated by several jurisdictions we examined, RJ could be used at several points along the criminal justice pathway including diversion from prosecution and at pre-sentencing stage, for all offenders and offence-types as long as there are the necessary guidelines and high quality training.



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