Dr Alan Billings South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner hosted the South Yorkshire Restorative Justice showcase on Wednesday 9 March at the Rotherham United Aesseal New York stadium.
The showcase was attended by over 100 delegates who heard accounts from victims, offenders, service-users, community justice panels co-ordinators and volunteers, police officers and service provider Remedi representatives. The order of events followed the Restorative Justice provision in South Yorkshire’s journey and provided information on how the service can be accessed.
The event started with an opening speech from Dr Billings, who explained his own personal experience with crime and how a burglary at his home many years ago made him think about the effect of a crime on the offender.
Dr Alan Billings said: “Today’s showcase has highlighted very strongly the benefits of Restorative Justice to both the victim and the offender. We have heard from Sarah who lost her son in a tragic dangerous driving incident and how Restorative Justice has helped her piece together a jigsaw with many missing pieces.
“Shannel, a remarkable woman who not only chose to meet the man who assaulted her in a shoplifting incident in Sheffield, but found herself hugging him at the end of the Restorative Justice conference. There was also a young offender who bravely stood in front of over 100 professionals and admitted he was wrong in his actions and showed how he is now turning his life around and attributed this change to his restorative justice experience.”
The audience heard from guest speakers Professor Joanna Shapland from the University of Sheffield who spoke about her research in to Restorative Justice and the difficulty of engaging victims and offenders when they know very little about what it means.
Inspector Richard Hammond explained about how the South Yorkshire Restorative Justice Hub works and highlighted its success since the launch in June 2015. He said: “715 victims have been contacted personally by the South Yorkshire Restorative Justice Hub of which 426 took part in a home visit from a Remedi practitioner and so far over half of these have expressed an interest in taking part in a Restorative Justice outcome.
“Victims and organisations can refer in to the hub at any stage of the criminal justice process if they feel they would like more information on Restorative Justice.”
South Yorkshire’s Restorative Justice provider Remedi’s Assistant Director Nicola Bancroft spoke about the benefits of Restorative Justice to the victims. She explained that seeing a victim and offender in a Restorative Justice conference can be extremely satisfying. This is especially so when you see the positive impact on a victim from hearing answers to questions and finally being able to tell a person who has committed a crime against them how they feel.
Linda Mayhew from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner who organised the event said: “I am really pleased with the reaction to the speakers today. We have heard some fascinating accounts of Restorative Justice in practice, how to access the service here in South Yorkshire and the positive benefits of taking part from both victim and offender perspective.
“The service users all gave some very specific and personal accounts of their experiences and I am very grateful to them all for sharing these with us.”