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Offenders Will Face Their Victims Of Crime

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Published at 8:06am 17th November 2014.

Perpetrators of low level crime and anti-social behaviour in Weymouth will have to face their victims.

A Neighbourhood Justice Panel programme in Dorset is being extended to include Weymouth next year.

The announcement coincides with International Restorative Justice Week (16-23 November 2014), which is aimed at raising awareness and understanding of Restorative Justice.

Neighbourhood Justice Panels are designed to help those involved in low level crime and ASB understand the impact of their actions on others and gives them an opportunity to make amends. West Dorset has been successfully using this restorative justice approach for the last four years. The OPCC has recently commissioned an evaluation to demonstrate the success of this work in victim satisfaction and reducing reoffending rates.

An example of a case which was referred to a West Dorset Neighbourhood Justice Panel was a dispute between neighbours over parking on the road. Both parties were involved in an argument during which the perpetrator kicked a car door and assaulted the victim, resulting in a small facial cut. The victim said: "I agreed to take part in the neighbourhood justice panel as it seemed a better way of resolving the issues. It let both sides have their say and problems were aired in an adult manner." The perpetrator of the case said: "My advice to anyone being offered restorative justice is to take it because it's a better option, especially in a small community where we all see each other on a daily basis. Dialogue is often the best way forwards. Everyone benefits and it means we can get on with normal life again".

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: "Restorative justice gives victims the opportunity to explain how the crime has affected their life. It also gives offenders a chance to face the consequences of their actions, in the hope that this will play a part in repairing harm so everyone can move on. Research shows that Restorative Justice (RJ) is associated with high levels of victim satisfaction and can also help reduce reoffending by offenders."

Mr Underhill added: "There are several areas where Restorative Justice is being used in Dorset and I am keen to see this work expand. Within the OPCC, I have a dedicated RJ project manager who is working to coordinate and facilitate the work of RJ as widely as possible through the development of a multi-agency strategy and work programme. I am funding and supporting a wider range of projects, working with several partner agencies, including the use of post-conviction RJ conferences and the expansion of Neighbourhood Justice Panels into Poole and Weymouth."

Rip Kirby is a Neighbourhood Justice Panel facilitator for the Dorchester area. He says: "It is really satisfying to see those involved in low level crime and ASB being able to reach a conclusion. It takes bravery and trust from all parties for the panels to succeed. Without exception, the cases I have dealt with have given both the offenders and victims a positive closure."

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