I went to a fascinating fringe event yesterday on restorative justice, and ensuring victims are put at the centre of justice. It was sponsored by the Prison Reform Trust and the Victim Support Trust. There were some statistics about offenders that are terrifying, and highlight some real areas where the justice system, and our health system fail not only victims but also future offenders before they commit a crime.
Javed Khan from the Victim Support Trust said that 67% of offenders arriving at Feltham Young Offenders Institute have an undiagnosed mental health issue. This is a devastating figure and clearly shows that earlier intervention by the state into supporting young people and diagnosing those who have a medical condition could reduce offending and stop young people getting into an early onset spiral of decline.
We also heard from Cllr Margarey Hoxley, from Pendle, about her experience of taking part in restorative justice by meeting her burglar, after the tragic death of her daughter in a car accident. A burglary laptop theft may have seemed minor, but with the laptop went precious photos and memories of her daughter. The process and experience seemed extremely helpful both to her, in understanding the motives and mindset of the burglar – ultimately drug addiction played a crucial part – and in helping the offender to realise the side effects of his crime. He has now not reoffended in the 14 months since leaving prison.
An awful lot needs to be done in this area. Support for this kind of process is patchy at best in the UK, although it receives overwhelming public support – 88% of people agree with restorative justice, says a Prison Reform Trust poll.
The Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) being elected on November 15th can play a crucial role in ensuring sufficient resources are put into this area, which has real benefits both for victims in dealing with their crime and offenders in preventing them from reoffending. Let’s make sure we get Liberal Democrat PCCs in November, to push forward what is essentially a Liberal idea.
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