Restorative Justice Hub launched for Harlow

A WOMAN, who took part in restorative justice after she was indecently exposed to, shared her powerful story at the launch of a new pilot project which will allow other victims to confront their perpetrators.

Restorative justice is a process which gives victims, involved in a crime or conflict, the opportunity to meet or communicate with those who have offended against them in a safe way.

Victims are given the chance to explain to a criminal the impact a crime has had on them, ask questions of the offender and seek an apology. It enables offenders to be held to account for what they have done but also take responsibility for the harm they have caused. If a face to face meeting is not appropriate they can do so indirectly via letters or messages.

Restorative justice is used for some crimes and anti-social behaviour. Everyone involved must consent to take part.

To enable these interactions to take place the Police & Crime Commissioner for Essex Nick Alston has created a Restorative Justice hub, which is made up of agencies across Essex who work to support victims of crime, reduce offending and support communities.

As part of the project, a full-time Restorative Justice Hub Development Manager has been recruited by the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner to oversee the project. Volunteers have also been recruited to facilitate interactions between victims and offenders.

The project will be trialled for six-months, starting from April 1st, in West Essex – which includes the towns of Epping, Ongar, Brentwood, Harlow, Thurrock, Debden and Loughton. If successful it will then be rolled out to the rest of Essex from October.

Paula Donohoe, who is from Essex, spoke about her experience of restorative justice at the launch of the hub.

She spoke of how she became a victim of crime when, whilst out walking her dog, a teenage boy indecently exposed himself. The incident left Paula angry towards her perpetrator and wanting to know why he had committed the crime.

Through her interactions with a Restorative Justice Facilitator, Paula was able to make a video, posing questions to her attacker about his behaviour and also making it plain how traumatised his actions had left her.

Paula told those present at the launch that the process had left her able to move on with her life and able to regain control.

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Paula’s story was very powerful and a compelling example of how the restorative justice process works.

“By confronting her perpetrator, Paula was able to regain the control in the situation and move on with her life.

“With the launch of our Restorative Justice hub I hope we can bring many more opportunities for other victims of crime to similarly regain control of their situation and get closure, enabling them to move on.

“Furthermore I am also hopeful that, by getting criminals to confront their actions, the work of the hub will play a key role in reducing reoffending.”

To take part in restorative justice, victims can get referred by partner agencies – such as Victim Support or Essex Police – or complete the simple self-referral form at the following link http://www.essex.pcc.police.uk/restorative-justice/.

Cases involving domestic abuse, sexual offending, schools or youth offenders will not be covered by the hub. The Youth Offending Service already successfully uses restorative justice and will continue to manage those cases. Everyone involved in the process must consent to take part.

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