The Restorative Justice Council has posted that on June 9, 2012, in the Queen's Speech which marks the start of the new session of parliament, she will mention "Neighbourhood justice panels, in which community volunteers use restorative justice to deal with anti-social behaviour and low-level crime." This process will be a part of new legislation. According to RJC:
The bill would include measures to ‘pave the way’ for the panels which will see more victims meeting perpetrators face to face.
The news follows the announcement that the government will be working with fifteen areas to test new Neighbourhood Justice Panels. Only the test areas will form the basis of the government evaluation but other areas will also be encouraged to set up Panels. Neighbourhood Justice Panels are currently ran in Somerset, Sheffield and Manchester where they have achieved remarkably low re-offending rates (3-5%) and victim satisfaction rates of over 90%.
The Panels only work with offenders who have admitted their guilt and only where the victim consents. Serious offences will continue to be dealt with by the Magistrates Courts.
As a nation, the UK has taken greater strides than perhaps any other country to integrate restorative justice into its criminal justice system. I recently posted an anecdote here about a restorative meeting with victims and a London rioter.
In related news, the other day the Vancouver Observer posted a report by David P. Ball - "Rioting research from Vancouver to India points to restorative justice solutions" - interviewing Theo Gavrielides' (Independent Academic Research Studies, IARS) during a visit to Vancouver to research and talk about riots there:
- Riots in Vancouver after Canucks lose Stanley Cup: live blog and photos
- Vancouver riot review: John Furlong's balancing act
As authorities continue to press charges – the current count is 200 – Gavrielides hopes they will forge ahead with plans to use restorative justice as an alternative to the penal system in some riot convictions. His research looks at case studies of rioting – what he terms “street group violence” -- in a plethora of countries, from Vancouver's hockey riots to anti-Muslim mobs in India and anti-austerity demonstrations in Greece.
His talk at Simon Fraser University– which has partnered in his research – comes just over a month before the one year anniversary of Vancouver's June 15 Stanley Cup loss, and the hours-long riot that ensued in its aftermath. The investigation that followed has involved high-tech video software, dozens of police officers, and now 200 charges filed. Police estimate the riot investigation will cost the province $2 million by the end of next month, plus millions more in extra police pay.
The Vancouver Police Department's Sept. 1, 2011 Stanley Cup Riot Review report – which found that police were unprepared for the scale of destruction – itself recommended alternative sentencing models such as the ones Gavrielides has researched.
Gavrielides research links the hockey riots with five days of chaos in England following the police killing of a black man on Aug. 4, 2012. Although the Guardian newspaper found widespread negative perceptions of the police, as well as racism, to be a significant factor in the rioting – which spread from London to cities around the country – Gavrielides believes the underlying psychology is similar.
“In the street group violence phenomenon, the group act acts as a coverup of your own criminal activity,” Gavrielides said. “Because you're doing it with someone else, you don't fall into self-check system you normally would."
The article, which can be found here, ends with a very provocative remark by Gavrielides that reverses normal expectation:
“All riots have very different reasons. But for me, the riot is just the hook for considering restorative justice. The riots are helping you to think in a different way – forcing you to think simply because the system is stuck. Millions have been spent just on the investigation – and how much footage do they have to go through? This is just a hook to introduce a more responsive, hopefully less costly, justice system.”