A role for restorative justice post-riots?

Last post for a while – well, for tonight anyway – on the riots. It occurs to me that this presents the best possible scenario for an absolute blitz on restorative justice, something which is often talked about in parliament and almost universally supported and praised, but never really implemented on the scale it could be.

The added factor in this criminality is the impact on the local community. Not just the physical damage that was caused, as shops and homes were trashed or burnt to the ground, including the devastating destruction of historic landmarks like the Victorian cottages of the Reeves store in Croydon (built 1867) and the fantastic art deco Union Point building in Tottenham (1930) – buildings that had survived the blitz – but the fear and terror caused to residents living in the affected areas. So restorative justice, with its emphasis on repairing the damage done by criminal acts and bringing home to the offenders the impact of their behaviour, as well as allowing victims, direct and indirect, to see justice being done, is surely worth a shot?

The problem is, of course, that it’s not seen as tough enough, and it’s not the swift justice that people want. But imagine the impact of seeing gangs of convicted looters in their orange jumpsuits in Croydon high street, cleaning the streets or repairing the damage done. It’s not as easy as sending people off to an established penal establishment, where the machine rolls into action as soon as sentence is passed. It would require planning, and resources, and  a bit of thought. And I don’t think it would be appropriate for the organised gangs involved in the riots and looting. For those cases like the mother who received the stolen shorts or the guy who stole £3.50 of water from Lidl, wouldn’t such a punishment far better fit the crime?

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  • neil scott  On August 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Sad really

  • Lisa Rea  On August 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I saw this and felt I had to write it. Here, here! You are absolutely right. This is an excellent opportunity for restorative justice and the focus needs to be on restoring victims, as much as possible, and communities while holding the offenders accountable. It is tough enough because the focus is on the right thing: those who have been victimized by the violence.

    As an international expert on victims-driven restoraive justice for almost 20 years I can tell you this is the direction we need to take in our justice systems worldwide. I am based in the U.S. and our needs, like yours, are the same. Our justice systems are broken and we are in need of systemic justice reform based on restorative justice.

    There is an opportunity right now in London to reach out to those victims of this violence and seek to meet their needs. Who speaks for them? Who will urge direct offender accountability ? I am glad to see you speak out as a lawmaker. Your voice is needed. We support you.

    Lisa Rea
    Founder & Moderator
    Restorative Justice International
    ~find us @ linkedin.com

    Rea Consulting
    Victims-Driven Restorative Justice

  • Theo Gavrielides (@TGavrielides)  On August 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Thank you for bringing this discussion to my attention.

    Exactly one year on from the eruption of widespread riots and looting across England, IARS , the RJRN and the Centre for Restorative Justice just released new research findings on the use of restorative justice with riots.

    The research led to the publication of a new book titled “Waves of Healing: Using Restorative Justice with Street Group Violence”.

    As is widely noted, the escalating significance of rioting and other forms of street group violence has posed great challenges for overstretched criminal justice systems, which is compounded by an economic crisis making governments uneasy about the rising costs of prosecution and imprisonment.

    Despite the impressive literature on restorative justice, the potential of its paradigm with street group violence remain largely unexplored. The financial, political and social implications that recent riots are having on governments across the world spark a new debate on the appropriateness of restorative approaches in relieving the overstretched and costly criminal justice system.

    The book uses the case study method to investigate examples in India, Greece, Canada and England, where restorative justice is considered within the context of street group violence. Key issues are identified and recommendations are posited, as new policies, practices and research are being proposed in this grey area of restorative justice.

    I would be interested to receive feedback, more information can be found http://www.iars.org.uk/content/RJ_Riots_book2012

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