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BY RACHEL FLEMING, North West Glasgow, Criminal Justice Team

A Restorative Justice pilot has been compiled in the North West of Glasgow within the Statutory Criminal Justice Social Work team to progress towards addressing the absence of Restorative Justice in the current statutory Criminal Justice System within the city of Glasgow.

A key remit of this work is to elevate the victim’s voice which at present is underrepresented within the justice system when assessing and responding to the aftermath of harm.

The compilation of this pilot is timely given the current political momentum to see the emergence of restorative justice across Scotland by 2023.  In a recent press release, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“We are committed to developing a smarter justice system, with the needs of victims at its heart.  Developing a restorative justice system will support those victims who choose this route, where appropriate alongside the criminal justice process, to move past traumatic harm.  It can also make those who have caused harm better understand the impact of their actions, thereby helping to reduce the likelihood of more harm.”

The approach to see Restorative Justice facilitated within the city of Glasgow has been informed by a number of sources, but perhaps most distinctly by Strathclyde University’s Restorative Justice & Practices Foundation Skills Intensive Programme, led by Tim Chapman, a prominent thinker and trainer in Restorative Justice.

Now that the research and training phase for the team is complete, Case sampling and paper exercises are underway to elicit further understanding about potential cases that could lead to restorative case conferences.

Area teams have been briefed and tasked with bringing forth relevant cases for consideration. A future aim is to establish a focus group which will offer advice, support, supervision and training.

Fundamental insight from agencies working with victims of harm and those within the legal system are integral to gaining the wisest vantage point. We are striving to strengthen and learn from Victim Agencies and the Police Response teams who have unique awareness of victim issues.

We recognise that the justice system is often met with, cynicism and disappointment. We hope that this new test of change will offer hope and opportunity to a population who often feel let down, angered or ambivalent towards the Justice System. Two ways that Glasgow plan to manage this is by conducting a small pilot which will allow our evaluation to be well considered with room for growth in the right direction. In addition pursuing a virtual space to publicise and promote the primary aspects of restorative justice.

Restorative Justice has been recognised for its roots in community problem solving; the conversation is being handled by those involved in the conflict. This harks back to integral social work values that the client is the expert of their own circumstances, have the answers within themselves and in many cases are the answer to the problems that confront them.

The aim is to offer a new dialogue steered by the empowerment of the victim’s voice. We are a nation that needs to become familiar with having a restorative conversation.

Annemarie Adair, Locality Manager, Victim Support Glasgow commented:

“Victim Support Scotland are working on this to ensure victims voices are being heard in the process so their views are taken into account”

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