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Norfolk police chief backs restorative justice

PUBLISHED: 18:20 05 April 2011

Chief Constable Phil Gormley

Chief Constable Phil Gormley

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

Norfolk chief constable Phil Gormley has backed calls for the government to enhance the role of restorative justice in sentencing reforms planned for this autumn.

He joined a range of influential people – including Lord Falconer and the Bishops of London and Liverpool – in signing a letter to The Times calling for the move.

The letter, published yesterday, highlights the benefits of bringing victims and offenders together, arguing that it cuts re-offending by confronting offenders with the real impact of their crime and satisfies victims “because it gives them a say, answers to their questions and reparation that means something”.

It urges the government to make restorative justice available to all victims of crime whenever an offender admits their offence and agrees to participate.

Peter Merry, head of criminal justice for Norfolk Police, said they had been at the vanguard of forces across the country in exploiting the potential of restorative justice over the past four years. He said: “It can be so effective because it offers communities the chance to resolve their own problems, bringing together victims, offenders and the wider community. It recognises an incident has happened, looks at what has gone wrong and why it has gone wrong, repairs the harm and puts things in place to ensure it does not happen again.”

In the case of youths causing criminal damage, they might be asked to fix what they had broken and apologise to the victim, but efforts might also be made to improve leisure activities for youngsters so the boredom factor did not lead to similar vandalism.

He said it had been shown to work across all age groups and was invaluable as a problem-solving tool before a crime had even been committed.

In Norfolk, 12,000 people had experienced restorative justice since 2007, with 89pc of them satisfied with the outcome; 87pc felt it was effective at dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour. The percentage of offenders re-offending after restorative justice was 10.4pc in the case of young people and 14pc for adults.

Mr Merry said: “While this method is not an alternative to court, it does deserve a place at the table.”

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