Frequently asked questions about Restorative Justice (RJ)

Do I need restorative justice (RJ)?

If you have been a victim of crime in Sussex and you are considering restorative justice, you are likely to have questions about what it will involve and why it might work for you. The information below will give you some of the answers you need and help you to make an informed decision about taking part.

How does RJ help victims of crime?

Restorative Justice can be a chance for you to:

  • Describe how you've been affected by a crime
  • Get answers to questions - for example, people often want to ask "why me?"
  • And move on with life

You might also be able to agree on something the offender can do to make amends.

Government research demonstrates that 85% of victims who take part in restorative justice find the process helpful

Victims of crime can often build up in their mind's eye a picture of the perpetrator as some sort of monster, and it can be reassuring to meet an offender who turns out to be just a human being who has a story to tell - sometimes with genuine regret. The Criminal Justice system can also leave many victims frustrated by unanswered questions or misunderstandings about what they could have done to prevent a similar crime happening again. Often the things that worry victims are consequences of actions entirely unintended by the offenders as they commit the crime: offenders simply don't think through the knock-on effects of their actions. RJ gives you the opportunity to tell the offender exactly how you have been affected by the crime and get anything that you want to say about the impact of it off your chest.

What does an RJ conference look like?

The Sussex Restorative Justice Partnership has made this video of one particular Restorative Justice Conference. This quite emotional meeting took place after the offender had pleaded guilty to burglary and had served his sentence. It was made with the full consent of both victims, Zoe and Andrew, and Ollie, the offender.  

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What good can come out of RJ sessions?

Research from the Ministry of Justice shows that offenders who go through a full Restorative Justice process are far less likely to reoffend than equivalent offenders who just go through the criminal justice system and serve a similar length sentence.

Restorative Justice has resulted in a 14% reduction in the frequency of re-offending. Source: Home Office figures

The process, including a conference, can then come up with suggestions or options of what offenders might like to do to repair the harm they've caused. It could be something as simple as attending a course; or keeping off drugs; or getting a job; or staying away from undesirable influences. Or even just offering the victims a genuine and heartfelt apology.

4 out of 5 people who take part in Restorative Justice would recommend it to other victims

From an offender's point of view the process of confronting their crimes in this emotional way - and taking full responsibility - can give them more self-esteem and therefore more self confidence to move away from situations where they're more likely to commit further crimes in the future.

What if I'm uncertain that I want to be involved in RJ?

The Sussex Restorative Justice Partnership recognises that often people don't want to meet their offender face to face. It isn't everyone's cup of tea. So any communication is always done with the consent of the victims, and at a pace the victims are happy with, and with complete consultation at every stage. Restorative Justice gives you the opportunity to tell offenders the real impact of their crime and get answers to questions. It holds offenders to account for what they have done and even gives them an opportunity to make amends.

The Restorative Justice process is led by a qualified facilitator who supports and prepares the people taking part and makes sure that it is safe. They will be able to talk you through the process, answer any questions that you may have and explain what will happen every step of the way. We have over 50 facilitators in Sussex, all supported and trained to a high standard, and extensive risk assessments are carried out. We look into the real motivation of why people want to participate. And only if its safe will we bring people into contact with each other.

Why would an offender want to be involved in helping a victim in RJ?

Restorative Justice can be a chance for an offender to understand the real impact of their behaviour and also to put a human face to their crime. It might also stop them from committing another crime.

A Restorative Justice process, including a conference, gives the offender an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and make amends to the victim - or anyone else who might have been affected.

Often, too, offenders want to understand why they offend, and discover if there is a way out of their repeated cycle of negative behaviour.

Restorative justice has been proven to have a greater impact on an offender than a prison sentence or a court punishment alone. With RJ, the offender has to face the consequences of their actions and, in the majority of cases, this will contribute to positive changes in their future behaviour.