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Report (5th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 20th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Liberal Democrat 7:30 pm, 20th March 2012

My Lords, it is clear from our debates in Committee that there is agreement in all parts of the House on the merits of restorative justice and the case for ensuring that it is seen as a central and fundamental part of our criminal justice system. I will make five key points. First, it has a salutary impact on many offenders by bringing home to them the impact of their offence on victims. All too often offenders minimise or simply do not think about the effect of their actions on other people. In a restorative justice process the offender has no alternative but to face up to the impact of his or her offences on those at the receiving end. Secondly, restorative justice gives victims much more satisfaction than other ways of dealing with offenders. A lot of research has been carried out on this point. It is clear that victims who have been through restorative justice express satisfaction with that process. It enables victims to tell their story, express their hurt and receive recognition in a way that no other procedure does. It helps to give victims closure, reduce trauma and reduce their fear about the future. Many victims also feel very positive about being involved in a process which can contribute more effectively to the rehabilitation of the offenders. Thirdly, restorative justice reduces reoffending. I have the Home Office research. It found that it did so by around 14 per cent. The process thereby helps to reduce the number of people in the future who would otherwise have suffered loss, distress, injury or damage as a result of crime. Fourthly, restorative justice saves money. The Restorative Justice Consortium has estimated a cost saving of £185 million over two years based on 70,000 cases and a return of £9 for every £1 spent. Finally, a wider use of restorative justice will help to increase public confidence in sentencing. An ICM poll that was carried out last year found that 88 per cent of people wanted victims to have the opportunity to inform offenders of the harm and distress they have caused.

There were a number of speeches in Committee on this matter so I will not repeat all the arguments in favour but I want to put two or three suggestions to the Minister. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, has tabled these new clauses and I think they require some discussion, even between now and Third Reading. One way is to include restorative justice in the statutory purposes of sentencing. Another is to enable courts to include restorative justice requirements in community orders. Another option that is open is to spell out that courts can use activities to require offenders to take part in restorative justice processes. Any or all of these proposals and approaches would help to keep restorative justice in the minds of sentencers and to achieve the Government's aim of ensuring that it becomes a central part of the criminal justice system. This is not the time to look at a final outcome but I hope very much that this will open up a discussion with the Government with a view to seeing if they will move on any of these fronts. I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, in what he has said.