If you were a victim of crime, would you want to meet the perpetrator? Do you think facing the victim should be part of the sentence?

This, essentially, is what is known as ‘Restorative Justice’ (RJ) and although an entirely voluntary process, there is plenty of evidence it benefits both sides. Victims like RJ as it can offer them closure and a heightened sense of justice; available data shows it reduces re-offending and gives the perpetrator chance to make amends.

We are very lucky in our county to have Restorative Gloucestershire, one of the UK’s leading practitioners, which undertakes many interventions to try to resolve situations early by taking a problem-solving approach.

Restorative justice serves victims of many different types of conflict and we have seen how neighbourhood disputes can lead to very bad outcomes if left to fester.  Yet, by early intervention, they can be rectified simply by encouraging people to speak to one another.  That’s why, in Gloucestershire, we train all our Police Community Support Officers to hold these sorts of restorative meetings to help overcome barriers, solve problems and get people talking again to rebuild relationships and move forward.

“Restorative Justice can be life changing for victims of crime”

Of course, not all problems can be solved ‘over the garden fence’. Some involve multiple agencies taking a genuinely holistic approach. That is why Restorative Gloucestershire chairs our ‘Community Trigger’ meetings, which bring all of these agencies together, including victims and perpetrators, to resolve a dispute and put a plan in place to stop further escalation.

Next week is Restorative Justice Week, yet not many people know about these restorative procedures. However, I believe they can make an important contribution towards my plan to significantly reduce anti-social behaviour.

RJ is all about putting the victim at the heart of everything we do within the criminal justice system. Not only does it enhance recovery and give victims a real voice in the process, it is also another way we can empower individuals and communities to deal with problems before they escalate into more serious crime.

RJ can be life changing for victims of crime and I am keen to champion restorative practices as one of the ‘Golden Threads’ in my emerging Police and Crime Prevention plan.

Everyone harmed by crime should have access to restorative services and I aim to ensure that approach is available to all as we make Gloucestershire the safest area in the whole country.