Police perceptions of restorative justice: Findings from a small‐scale study

Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
Police perceptions of restorative justice: Findings
from a small-scale study
Paul Gavin | Allyson MacVean
College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University,
Bath, UK
Paul Gavin, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa
University, Newton Park Campus, Bath BA29BN,
Email: p.gavin@bathspa.ac.uk
This paper considers the views and perceptions of police
officers and staff from a local police force in England, on
the training provided in, and use of, restorative justice.
These views were obtained through the use of an online
questionnaire as well as the recording of comments made
by police officers and staff after one training session.
While the overall sample is too small to draw any concrete
conclusions, participants appeared to share views
expressed in similar, larger studies. This study adds to the
literature on restorative justice as police views in this area
are underresearched in England and Wales.
There can be no doubting that there has been a revival in the fortunes of the development and use of
restorative justice (RJ) in England and Wales in recent years (Acton, 2014). Examples of this revival
include increased funding for Youth Offending Teams to expand on the use of RJ, the introduction of
a Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, giving victims the right to information about participation in
RJ schemes, which implements the EU Victims(2012) Directive 2012/29, and the introduction of
the Crime and Courts Act (2013), which introduced RJ for victims of adult offenders in England and
Wales (Hoyle & Rosenblatt, 2016). Also, between 2011 and 2014 the National Offender Manage-
ment Service embarked on a restorative justice capacity building programme to increase aware-
ness and build capacity to deliver RJ conferencing in both prisons and probation(House of
Commons Justice Committee, 2014, p. 6). Another area which has seen a significant expansion in the
use of RJ has been policing. Research undertaken by the Association of Chief Police Officers (2009;
cited in Shewan, 2010) revealed that RJ is being used in at least 33 police forces in England and
Wales. In 2013, the Ministry of Justice announced that at least £29 million would be provided for
Police and Crime Commissioners to help deliver RJ in their local police areas (Ministry of Justice,
2013). This shows that RJ is no longer an option which sits on the fringes of the criminal justice sys-
tem, but rather one which has come from the margins into the mainstream (Collins, 2015; González,
Buth, & Sattler, 2018).
Received: 10 May 2018 Revised: 3 August 2018 Accepted: 8 August 2018
DOI: 10.1002/crq.21235
© 2018 Association for Conflict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Conflict Resolution Quarterly. 2018;36:115130. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/crq 115
Given the increased use of RJ by the police in England and Wales, this paper could be considered to
be timely, as it considers the perceptions and views of police officers and staff in one local police force on
the training they received in and the potential use of Level 1 RJ. These views were obtained through an
academic partnership between Bath Spa University, Wiltshire Police, and the Office of the Wiltshire Police
and Crime Commissioner. This paper presents an examination of the literature on police-led RJ programs
both in England and Wales and internationally. The use of such programs has grown considerably in the
last 20 years and they are now used in many jurisdictions, including Australia, the Republic of Ireland, and
Northern Ireland. It then considers and analyzes the findings of this study. However, in order to have any
meaningful discussion on the topic of RJ, consideration must be given as to how RJ is defined. This discus-
sion is necessary as it sets out the parameters for the use of the term RJ in the overall study.
One of the most enduring problems of RJ is that of definition (Jones & Creaney, 2014). Daly (2016)
notes that while those familiar with RJ have a settled idea of what it is [the] definitional problem
is aggregating all the individual understandings into a coherent whole(p. 11). It has been described
as both a movement (Richards, 2004) and a philosophy (Braithwaite & Strang, 2000; Gavrielides &
Artinopoulou, 2013), which can mean all things to all people. As such, this has resulted in RJ being
a deeply contested concept(Johnstone & Van Ness, 2007, p. 6). Given that RJ has been a part of
the criminological discourse for several decades, its meaning has undergone significant change, and
the use of the term restorative is now applied to a variety of practicescommunity reparation
boards, surrogate victim (or offender meetings), community service, and so on. It is also now used in
myriad settings such as schools, prisons, and workplaces, and in contexts including not only criminal
justice but transitional justice (i.e., truth and reconciliation commissions), institutional responses to
abuse, and so on(Wood & Suzuki, 2016, p. 150). Providing a universally agreed-upon definition of
RJ is next to impossible, not least because its advocates themselves adhere to different conceptions
of RJ and what it should achieveEven the name RJhas been criticized as misleading for the
implication that restorative approaches are a form of justice(Sheary, 2016, pp. 157159).
There are many definitions of RJ and they are usually dependent on the context in which it is being
discussed. For example, in the Republic of Ireland, it has been defined as a victim sensitive response
to criminal offending, which, through engagement with those affected by crime, aims to make amends
for the harm that has been caused to victims and communities and which facilitates offender rehabilita-
tion and integration into society(National Commission on Restorative Justice, 2009, p. 20). The
Restorative Justice Council (2009) in the United Kingdom defines it as processes which bring those
harmed by crime or conflict, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling every-
one affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way for-
ward.Zehr (2002) has defined it as a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a
stake in a specific offence and to collectively identify and address harms, needs,and obligation, in order
to heal and put things as right as possible(p. 37), while Umbreit, Wilson, and Roberts (2006) statethat
RJ involves the provision of opportunities for those most directly affected by a crime to be actively
involved in the process of addressing harms, needs, and obligations. RJ is about offender accountabil-
ity, victim healing, and community safety, through mediation and dialogue whenever possible.A
widely recognized definition was put forward by Marshall (1999), who, when researching RJ for the
Home Office in the United Kingdom, defined it as a problem solving approach to crime which
involves the parties themselves and the community generally, in an active relationship with statutory
agencies(p. 5). While there is no universal definition of RJ, Marshall's is widely accepted as it refers

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