Restorative Justice Guidance is Clear and Comprehensive

Written by
Alan Mairs
Restorative Justice in Scotland

Sacro has been providing services based on restorative practices in Scotland for over 30 years. Over time we have seen the practice evolve from the fledgling “Mediation and Reparation” services of the 1980s to the fully-developed and highly-regarded Restorative Justice (RJ) services we see today.

Restorative justice services provide a unique opportunity to address harm effectively for all those damaged by it. For people harmed by crime, the practice can bring long-term healing by allowing them to feel safe again, ask questions, receive apologies and reparation, and find out the answer to that most challenging of questions; “why me?” In addition, those responsible for harm are faced with hearing about – often at first-hand – the impact their actions have had on the person or people they have harmed. Taking personal responsibility for this harm and taking steps to address it in future can be an uncomfortable experience but one which ultimately offers a positive way forward and a chance to repair the harm they have caused.

These opportunities just don’t happen within the traditional criminal justice system and yet we know from experience this is often exactly what those affected by crime need to experience in order to move on with their lives.

One fundamental element that hasn’t changed over the years is the voluntary nature of restorative practices; the system simply cannot work unless all parties agree to participate. This is particularly important for the person harmed who must be confident in embarking on a process which can be uncomfortable and even damaging if they are not fully prepared or suited to it. Restorative justice must be applied with strict governance and full cognisance of risk for it to be effective and safe. For these reasons alone, the publication of statutory guidance on restorative justice processes would be a very welcome and important piece of work. As it is however, the Scottish Government’s Guidance for the Delivery of Restorative Justice in Scotland achieves much more. For practitioners, facilitators and providers of restorative justice services, the guidance is consistent and comprehensive in establishing best practice and core principles for RJ. For referrers, the publication provides a greater understanding of the principles, effectiveness and value of restorative justice services.

The guidance has been drafted with the full involvement of organisations delivering restorative justice services as well as referring bodies, academics, local authorities and statutory justice agencies. Our collective hope is that this publication provides increased understanding and confidence in the restorative justice process for those tasked with keeping us safe.

Crime is transformative for everyone involved; be they victim or offender. For a modern justice system to address offending effectively, it needs to have restorative practices in its toolbox. This guidance provides clarity for those delivering services, confidence for those making referrals and an opportunity for local government to review service provision across Scotland to ensure these valuable services are available wherever they are needed.

Read the Guidance for Delivery of Restorative Justice in Scotland on the Scottish Government website.