Dr Alan Billings South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner hosted the South Yorkshire Restorative Justice (RJ) showcase on Wednesday 9 March at the Rotherham United Aesseal New York stadium.
The showcase was attended by over 100 delegates who heard accounts from victims, offenders, service-users, community justice panels co-ordinators and volunteers, police officers and service provider Remedi representatives. The event provided information on how RJ can be accessed.
The event started with an opening speech from Dr Billings, who explained his own personal experience with crime and how a burglary at his home many years ago made him think about the effect a crime might have on the offender as well as the victim.
The Commissioner said: “Today’s showcase has highlighted the benefits Restorative Justice can have for both victim and offender, where both want it. It gives a measure of control back to victims and gives them the opportunity to ask the offender the questions that they want to put, such as, Why did you do this too me? It also allows an offender to express remorse.
“We have heard from Sarah who lost her son in a dangerous driving incident and how Restorative Justice has helped her piece together what seemed to her a jigsaw with many missing pieces.
“Shannel, a remarkable woman who not only chose to meet the man who assaulted her in a shoplifting incident in Sheffield, but found herself hugging him at the end of the Restorative Justice conference. There was also a young offender who bravely stood in front of over 100 professionals and admitted he was wrong in his actions and showed how he is now turning his life around and attributed this change to his Restorative Justice experience.”
The audience heard from Professor Joanna Shapland from the University of Sheffield who spoke about her research into Restorative Justice and how this now provides part of the evidence base which shows that RJ can reduce re-offending by as much as 14%.
Inspector Richard Hammond explained how the South Yorkshire Restorative Justice Hub works and highlighted its success since the launch in June 2015. He said: “715 victims have been contacted personally by the South Yorkshire Restorative Justice Hub of which 426 took part in a home visit from a Remedi practitioner and so far over half of these have expressed an interest in taking part in a Restorative Justice outcome.
“Victims and organisations can refer in to the hub at any stage of the criminal justice process if they feel they would like more information on Restorative Justice.”
Nicola Bancroft, the assistant director of South Yorkshire’s Restorative Justice provider Remedi, spoke about the benefits of Restorative Justice to the victims, especially the positive effects for a victim having their questions answered and being able to tell a person who has committed a crime against them how they feel.
Linda Mayhew from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, who organised the event said: “I am really pleased with the reaction to the speakers today. We have heard some fascinating accounts of Restorative Justice in practice, how to access the service here in South Yorkshire and the positive benefits of taking part from both the victim and offender perspective.
“The service users all gave some very specific and personal accounts of their experiences and I am very grateful to them all for sharing these with us.”