THE commissioner of South Wales Police is calling on people in the criminal justice system to make so-called “restorative justice” an everyday part of their work.
Restorative justice is an approach that’s based on the assumption that a criminal act is a crime against the community — it takes into account the wishes of the victims and the community, and encourages offenders to make amends and to be reintegrated back into society.
Often it involves the offender and victim coming face-to-face.
Commissioner Alun Michael said such an approach had been shown to work, and was one of his key priorities for reducing crime.
He said: “Research has shown a 27 per cent reduction in the rate of re-offending after a restorative intervention — that’s 27 per cent fewer crimes and 27 per cent fewer victims.
“The impact on victim satisfaction is clear at about 90 per cent.
“This is all about victims’ voices to be heard. It’s about preventing repeat offences and paying back your debt to society through work with the community, not through years in prison.
“In some cases prison is the only option but the restorative justice approach is in the interests of victims and the wider public — and it cuts re-offending.”
Mr Michael made his comments at the launch of the Quality Mark for the Restorative Justice Council in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.
The Labour commissioner has asked Julia Houlston Clark, who as chaplain in Cardiff prison was credited with leading a successful restorative justice programme for young offenders, to examine what is happening across South Wales.
He told the audience there was strong cross-party support for the principles of resorative justice but that there were also significant challenges ahead.
“The effectiveness of restorative justice when applied with a high degree of professionalism is no longer in doubt," he said.
"But to carry the public with us the needs and wishes of victims must come first, and the methods used need to be consistent and at the highest professional and ethical standards.
"There are already lots of excellent projects and lots of enthusiasm but too little co-ordination between them.
"We need to work together and my challenge is for South Wales to become an exemplar of restorative justice with a consistent and coherent approach."