Restorative justice, policing and the Big Society
Mar 02, 2011
There has been much talk about restorative justice. We’ve seen encouraging pilots and there’s talk about it not only in this country, but around the world. So why is it that something that offers such encouraging results should not have taken a greater hold in our system?
Well, I think it is because we’ve seen evolving over the last few years a criminal justice system that has been very much directed from the centre.
We’ve been through the recent era of targets and what has eloquently been described as ‘deliverology’. The idea of managing from the centre, of close direction in order to try and drive up the performance of public services. This was done for benign reasons, but we all know what the consequences were.
One of those consequences was the erosion of professional discretion and a driving of activity in very prescribed forms. I think the consequence of this top-down culture was that we disempowered the frontline across the public sector, but certainly in relation to the criminal justice system. We robbed police officers of their discretion, and we divided criminal justice partners.
...Now I would like to say something else that I think is perhaps challenging.
I believe that we should stop talking about 'diverting' from the criminal justice system. Whilst I know exactly what is meant by this language, I think it’s a problem because it implies that diverting people from the system is some kind of goal in itself, that that is what we aspire to do. It is a problem describing it in that way as we can lose the public and their confidence that crime is being dealt with.
Instead of talking about diversion from the system, what we should really be talking about is transforming the criminal justice system. Transforming it into a service and transforming the way it operates. What we should really be talking about is not diversion but reclaiming justice for communities and ensuring that the way in which justice is delivered is not remote and that the system is not opaque.
We should stop talking about diversion because what we want to do is not see restorative justice as some kind of alternative to the criminal justice system. What we want to see is restorative justice and restorative principles embedded in the criminal justice system as a whole and operating at every part of the criminal justice system.
Read the whole speech.