The basics of restorative justice can be found in the earlier systems of Compensation orders which were brought in with the Criminal Justice act 1972, whereby offenders were ordered to pay compensation for any 'personal injury, loss or damage' resulting from the offence (Williams 2004: 108-110). These orders were only permitted in addition to other sentences, not as a substitute. It was not until the criminal Justice Act 1982 that a compensation order could be made as punishment (ibid: 109).
In 1973 the Community Service Order (now called Community Punishment Orders) was introduced which required reparation by the offender by putting something back into the community (ibid: 110). Its main impact has been seen in the Youth Justice System in response to a traditionally punitive and less welfare orientated approach to youth justice. Elements of restorative justice were present in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 such as the introduction of reparation orders, final warnings, action plan orders and amendments to existing supervision order provisions (Crawford and Newburn 2002: 476,478).
The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 further developed the restorative justice approach with the creation of referral orders (ibid). Referral orders are said to 'bring home to young offenders what they have done' (Home Office 2003: 13). It is directed at young people without any prior convictions, and is 'one of the most important forms of restorative justice in the Youth Justice System' (Home Office 2003: 15). The offender attends a Youth Offending Panel (YOP) whereby the panel agrees a programme with the offender to make reparation and tackle the root of their offending (Home Office 2003; 62).
These can include a number of activities such as curfews and programmes of community reparation. Examples of which have included attending the local hospital to see consequences of actions, and peer mentoring courses (Home Office 2003: 13). The panels also allow victims to play a part in the process if they wish. Today restorative justice in Youth Offending Systems is mainly seen in referral orders and reparation orders. The Home Office (2003: 62) describes reparation orders as, 'a disposal requiring a young offender to carry out reparation to the victim, if the victim wishes, or else for the benefit of the community'.
They can be carried out through victim-offender mediation (face to face or indirect), restorative conferencing or family group conferencing (FGC). These processes are defined in the Home Office (2003: 62) publication. Victim- Offender mediation is where contact between victim and offender is made via a mediator or with a mediator present, which leads to an outcome agreement on how the offender can right the wrong. Restorative conferencing involves a meeting of the victim and offender, with their families and supporters, and sometimes with members of the wider community; this process tends to be more structured than the mediation.
Family group conferencing is similar to restorative conferencing, but looks to the offender's family as a support structure. Restorative Justice is becoming more widespread at all stages of the adult CJS. There is the use of 'caution plus schemes', 'release arrangements' and reparation to the community as part of community sentences and Prison Service practice (Home Office 2003: 16). Arguments to show that it is more directed at youth and less serious crimes. Restorative Justice is often portrayed as the most preferred method in addressing crime. During 2002 over half (54.
2%) of all Youth offending Team interventions were restorative or reparative, and 68. 8% of victims who had been involved said they were satisfied (Home Office 2003: 15). It has been questioned whether the restorative justice approach 'fits in' with New Labour's 'tough on crime tough on the causes of crime' strategy. This policy, introduced in 1997, aimed for; fast track punishment for persistent young offenders, a reform of Crown prosecution service to convict more criminals, more police, a crackdown on petty crimes and neighbourhood disorder, ban on handguns and so forth (Labour Party Manifesto 1997).
Labour intended to move away from '1960s liberalism', which focused on 'offender's rights and preventing miscarriages of justice', and move towards increased responsibility (Reuters 2005). The same evidence of a punitive system fuelled by punishment is seen up until the 2005 election manifesto. It highlights that Labour since 1997 has provided tougher court sentences, 16,000 new prison places, serious violent offenders will be detained indefinitely, and the 2003 Criminal Justice Act confirmed that life sentences mean life (for the most atrocious murders) (Labour party Manifesto 2005: 47,48).
According to Allen (2004), 'there's no doubt that the sentencing on offenders has become much tougher in recent years'. (The Guardian, 20/07/2004). There are 30,000 more people in prison than when Tony Blair became leader 10 years ago and that this does not reflect an increase in crime, which overall has decreased by 30% under Labour (ibid; Labour party Manifesto 2005: 43). Allen also suggests that under labours initiative defendants rights have increasingly been neglected inline with the ever more punitive sentences used.
A move to the more 'problem-solving' approach of restorative justice would prevent the miscarriages of justice but still provide a 'better deal' for victims (The Guardian, 20/07/2004). Further rises in prison pop unsustainable, ho agreed looking to cap prison numbers , new sentencing options in the criminal justice act 2003, judicial guidelines on how they are to be used and a new offender management service to supervise community orders are intended to put a brake on imprisonment (The Guardian 20/07/2004).
In an article published in The Guardian (23/07/2003), the inclusion of the restorative justice measures as part of police cautioning scheme contained in the criminal justice bill, is described as 'mark(ing) a victory for liberal criminal justice campaigners who have fought for 10 years to secure their adoption'. This draws attention to how different restorative justice schemes are to the 'normal' methods of 'punishment', and how it is a huge step from the government's original strategy.
Restorative Justice, as mentioned earlier, is mainly found in the systems of Youth Justice and works within the already established systems of punishment of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). It has not been put into place as a substitute for the traditionally punitive system. It has been introduced as a method of addressing victims' needs. David Blunkett states that, 'the government is committed to placing victims' needs at the centre of the Criminal Justice System. We also want a system that encourages responsibility, so that offenders face up to what they have done…. I believe restorative justice can help deliver a CJS like this.
Bringing victims and offenders together can help victims get answers to their questions, and an apology' (Home Office 2003: 4). The strategy also stresses that restorative justice is not a 'panacea', it is recognised that it is not a solution and that restorative justice will not work for everyone. David Blunkett in his forward to the strategy also stresses that Restorative justice is not a 'soft option', both for victims and offenders, highlighting that it is hard for the offenders to face up to the real impact of their crime and that it is hard for victims to face the offenders (ibid).
Evidence from a study which looked at restorative justice schemes in the Thames Valley and compared them with traditional cautioning schemes in Sussex and Warwickshire found that making offenders apologise for their actions (restorative cautioning) has not had an impact on reconviction rates (The Guardian 04/01/2005). However ex Chief Constable Charles Pollard states, 'there is strong evidence from a large number of other studies in the UK and overseas that restorative justice, when undertaken with sufficient resources and in the right way, can have a major influence on reducing repeat offending.
' (The Guardian 10/01/2005). Attention is also drawn to the positive aspects of restorative justice. 'Restorative Justice means victims can get an apology from their offender, but it is more than saying sorry, it provides the victim with an explanation as to why the crime was committed. That is something a prison sentence can never do' (Blunkett cited in The Guardian 23/07/2003)