Essex Restorative and Mediation Services

Last week I paid a visit to the Essex Fire and Rescue Headquarters in Kelvedon, to meet with Stephen from the Restorative and Mediation Services Team.

What is Restorative Justice?

Restorative Justice is a free service available to anyone in the county who is involved in crime or conflict.

In criminal cases, it enables victims of crime to explain to the perpetrator the consequences and impact that the crime has had upon them, and to ask them questions. In civil disputes, for example, between neighbours, the team work with all parties involved to try to help them find an agreed way to move forward and live peacefully.

The process is voluntary and moves at the pace which is comfortable for the individuals involved.

What does it achieve?

The Restorative Justice team work to facilitate safe and effective communication between people in conflict, with the aim of achieving mutually agreed, positive outcomes for all involved.

Who is it for?

Everyone involved must give consent to take part, and some degree of responsibility must have been taken for the harm that was caused by the offence. The offender is encouraged through the process to take accountability for their actions and make amends for them. involved parties are able to opt out of the process at any point.

Some cases may be referred to alternative agencies, such as those involving domestic abuse, young offenders and crimes of a sexual nature, but these instances would be discussed with those involved on a case-by-case basis.

In cases that have gone to court, the Restorative Justice process cannot begin until sentencing has taken place.

What will happen?

Once you are referred, the team will get in touch with you to explain the process and ensure that Restorative Justice is a suitable path in your individual case. The process will only begin when all parties are ready for it to, and at this point the team facilitators will meet with everyone involved in the conflict to formulate a plan of how to proceed.

The facilitators will arrange for any communication to take place, whilst ensuring that the parties involved are as comfortable as possible. This communication may involve meeting face to face, or be indirect, such as through letters.

Does it work?

The Restorative Justice service states that:

85% of victims who engage with the process are satisfied following its completion.

Re-offending is reduced, research suggesting by 14%.

78% of offenders would recommend the process to others.

Post traumatic stress following the crime is reduced.

It gives the victim a voice and allows for meaningful closure.

How do I find out more?

If you are already involved with agencies such as the Police, Victim Support, or a Housing association, they may suggest Restorative Justice to you, and can make the referral if you want them to. You can also contact the Restorative Justice Hub yourself by visiting their website.

If you would like to access support or information around any of the issues mentioned in this blog, give the Healthwatch Essex Information & Guidance Service a call on 0300 500 1895, email [email protected] or text/WhatsApp on 07712 395398.

 Sharon Westfield De Cortez, Information and Guidance Manager