The South Yorkshire Restorative Justice service was launched to invited guests at an event held at the Rotherham United New York Stadium on Wednesday 15 May.
The service is commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings and the South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company.
Restorative Justice gives a victim the opportunity to meet with the person who has committed a crime against them where both the victim and the offender want it.
Restorative Justice does not take the place of the criminal justice system. – but sits alongside it for those who want it.
While Restorative Justice is not for everyone, experience shows that some victims want answers to questions and some offenders want to show remorse.
People who have been burgled, for example, might want to ask the offender questions that have been giving them sleepless nights – such as ‘why me?’
The event was opened by Steve Jones, director of Remedi, who are running the service on behalf of the Police and Crime Commissioner and the CRC. He explained how each victim who has a crime committed against them has questions. These questions could be why me? It could be where my belongings are? Or something much more personal.
Gary Chamberlain was burgled in February 2018. He spoke to the audience about why he took up the opportunity to participate in Restorative Justice.
He said: “I wanted to know why he sprayed squirty cream on my carpets. He took electronic equipment and my wife’s jewellery, but I couldn’t understand why he wanted to do that? Unfortunately he couldn’t answer as he was on drugs whenever he committed a crime.
“When I met with the 17-year old offender, I straight away felt sorry for him. He received a nine-year prison sentence and he will spend his young adult years in prison. I asked him if he thought about his family and why he did it.”
The offender appeared on a video shot in prison in which he said he wanted to turn his life around.
The South Yorkshire Restorative Justice provision is provided by Remedi and available to any victim of crime within South Yorkshire and for any crime type, free of charge.
Dr Alan Billings spoke at the event about his experience of being burgled and being involved with Restorative Justice and the benefits to victims that it can bring.
“There can be good outcomes to Restorative Justice for both a victim and an offender – where each is willing to take part.
“Victims have the opportunity to get answers to their questions, as well as explain the impact the crime had on them and their family.
“I have seen offenders visibly moved when victims have described the impact on them of the theft of quite small items – such as rings – which have great sentimental value and are irreplaceable. This helps with the healing process for victims, and also enables the offender to realise the full impact of their crimes.”
The South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company are also funding the service. Jan Hannant, Director at the CRC said: “We value our partnership with the PCC and Remedi. The principles of restorative justice are very important to the work we do with people on probation.
“Restorative Justice helps service users to understand the real impact of their crime and by hearing how their actions have affected other people, it can stop them re-offending in the future.
“It also gives them an opportunity to say sorry to the victim and move on from their crime.”
The Restorative Justice provision is a two year contract with the opportunity for an extension. It requires Remedi to provide 60 face to face Restorative Justice conferences and 175 in-direct exchanges, which could be letters or messages passed between the victim and the offender.
Nicola Bancroft, Assistant Director at Remedi is asking victims to self-refer in to the service. She said: “If you would like to talk to a trained practitioner about whether restorative justice is for you, please contact our helpline on 0800 561 1000 or access further information from our website www.restorativesouthyorkshire.co.uk”