Since being appointed Cabinet Secretary for Justice in June 2018, I have been clear in my commitment to put victims of crime at the centre of Scotland’s justice system and ensure that their voices are heard.
I have heard first-hand about the damage caused by crime and harmful behaviour. Individuals and families have told me that while the criminal justice process allows for establishing the facts of a case, it does not always provide the opportunity for them to explain the emotional, physical and practical impact the harm has had on their lives, or to hear direct from those who caused the harm. Victims – whether these are individuals or communities – sometimes want reassured that those who caused the harm fully understand the impact, that they will take action to repair the damage caused, and they will avoid a recurrence of the harmful behaviour in the future.
Restorative Justice (RJ) provides a potentially powerful way to address these issues, by enabling people who have been harmed and those who have caused the harm to communicate in a safe environment. The process must always be entirely voluntary for all parties involved and be facilitated by trained specialists in accordance with published guidance.
There is sound evidence that RJ can empower and provide redress not only to those impacted directly by the harmful behaviour, but also to wider communities. It also encourages those who have done the harm to consider the impact of their actions at a human level, and so help reduce the chance of repeating the behaviour.
We want to offer more people in Scotland the opportunity to access RJ. In our Programme for Government we committed to have RJ services widely available across Scotland by 2023, with the interests of victims at their heart.
In order to achieve this, there are challenges we must firstly overcome. We need to: ensure we have high quality training available for RJ facilitators; enable the safe sharing of data between justice services; raise public awareness of the benefits of RJ; and determine local and national resource requirements.
This Action Plan sets out in more detail how we plan to meet these challenges and deliver our Programme for Government commitment. It has been developed in partnership with Community Justice Scotland and informed by input and feedback from the Restorative Justice Forum and other expert stakeholders across the public and third sectors. I would like to thank them all for their input to date, and I look forward to continuing this productive collaboration as we move forward.
Humza Yousaf MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Justice