Restorative Justice in the Greater Manchester Police
Mar 09, 2012
....The first of the five aims, to reduce crime, is an area where GMP has had significant success in recent years. A key part of the crime reduction strategy is to “make more use of Restorative Justice to give victims the opportunity to challenge offenders and make them understand the consequences of their behaviour”. In a criminal Justice context, victims are given the chance to tell offenders the real impact of their crime, to get answers and to get an apology. This helps offenders understand the real impact of what they’ve done and holds them to account for it while also helping victims to get on with their lives.
To some extent, RJ runs counter to the culture that developed within police forces in response to central government targets because it can adversely affect the statistics traditionally used to assess police performance. Performance was measured against targets such as the numbers of sanctioned detections (where an offender is charged, cautioned, reported for summons, reprimanded, the offence is taken into consideration or where a fixed penalty notice is issued), the numbers of stop and search events and numbers of arrests. The last of these central government policing targets was removed in 2010.
The move to RJ was fully endorsed by Peter Fahy, GMP’s Chief Constable. Under his leadership, the key challenge for GMP was to implement awell-proven but radically different method that would need a major cultural shift to be successful following a decade of performance targets. He was also conscious that while the RJ approach requires the same level of work and delivers better outcomes, it may result in fewer arrests and fewer sanctioned detections. The decision to go with RJ carried the risk that, at a time of budget cuts and following documented target successes, GMP would be embarking on an innovation the benefits of which could be hard to quantify.
....For victims of crime, RJ helps produce an outcome they can control. It offers a choice; not all victims want to go to court but they do want their questions answered. Victim satisfaction levels are 96% for RJ interventions, where previously they were around 78%.
Currently some 3-4% of all crime across GMP is now dealt with in a restorative way with around 5,000 RJ interventions over the past year. For a new programme, this indicates very strong buy-in from officers.
Community groups have been very supportive of the RJ policy and are approaching GMP to see if they too can engage in the RJ process. It was unexpected that people would want to get involved and take on some of the work.
Relations between GMP and schools have also benefited. There are now more RJ interventions and fewer arrests of children of school age, police are invited to schools more often and some schools are willing to pay for a dedicated officer. The increased use of RJ also means fewer perpetrators of petty crimes, such as stealing sweets, end up with a criminal record yet they do subsequently change their behaviour for the better.
Many officers across GMP are now passionate about RJ. Analysis shows that re-offending levels are low, and officers describe the policy as “high impact”, “very powerful”, “it works” and that it is “a proven part of the toolkit”. One officer noted “I feel morally it’s the right thing to do. I haven’t always felt that”.