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Victims of crime to meet offenders

DORSET PCC MARTYN UNDERHILL DEC 2015

8:28am 3rd October 2017

Victims of crime are to have a stronger voice in West Dorset.

The Restorative Dorset service has been launched.

The project allows victims to meet offenders and explain the impact of their actions.

The service is funded by the Dorset Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and will be implemented by the Safer Poole Partnership.  It will build on work currently taking place in Poole and the west of the county, ensuring it is well managed and developed, while also making the facilities more widely available across Dorset.

The project will also support police officers, encouraging them to offer restorative practices where appropriate and refer any candidates who express their interest. This includes both restorative mediation and restorative justice. In both scenarios, all parties must volunteer in order for the process to go ahead. Where an offender is present, it is a precondition that they have formally accepted responsibility for their actions.

Restorative mediation provides a platform for members of conflicted communities to move forward and improve their quality of life. It can be used in situations such as neighbourhood disputes, where all parties will agree and own the outcomes.

Restorative justice offers victims the opportunity to meet with offenders and explain the full extent of the impact of their crimes. The service is already widely available for victims of crimes committed by young people; this project will be the first pan-Dorset service for victims of crimes committed by adults.

This service can be used for all types of crime and the facilitated meetings can be highly beneficial for both parties. Outcomes of the process will typically include an apology, financial compensation, or simply a platform to ask questions and get answers. Giving victims a voice in this way has already been shown to improve their ability to gain closure and move on after the crime.

Offenders involved in the process have been able to mend some of the damage caused by their original crime. They have also been seen to engage with programmes that address the underlying factors leading to offending behaviour, such as alcohol or drug misuse. This has had a positive impact on their risk of reoffending.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: "Supporting victims and reducing reoffending are key themes of my Police and Crime Plan for 2017-2021 and the Restorative Dorset service has benefits for both areas.

"By bringing together victims and offenders, the service explores a more sustainable solution to crime, empowering victims to share their experiences in a way that helps their own development. It also holds offenders to account, encouraging them both to reflect on their behaviour and look ahead to a life outside of crime."

Anthi Minhinnick, Community Safety Manager at the Safer Poole Partnership, will be coordinating the project and has seen the potential benefits from the restorative practice work that is already ongoing. She said: "The project has been in a pilot stage in some areas of Dorset for around a year. In Poole, since the pilot's inception in 2016, 47 referrals have been received, which include a range of restorative mediation and post-conviction cases.

"We are pleased to be offering the Restorative Dorset service to victims across the pan-Dorset area. The service will enable victims to have a voice and offer a sense of closure to assist them in moving forward in recovering from the crime."

As well as interested victims and offenders, effective restorative practice also relies on skilled and experienced volunteers. Those who would like to find out more about volunteering or would like further information about the Restorative Dorset service should visit www.poole.gov.uk/restorativedorset or contact the Restorative Dorset coordinators at restorativedorset@poole.gov.uk.

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