Making sure punishment fits the crime
THE rise of restorative justice in Plymouth may be a cause for concern to some.
Thousands of offenders have avoided traditional sentences by making an agreement with the victim to make amends.
In Plymouth the use of such measures have trebled over the last three years. It will certainly come as a surprise to many that this option is being used for sexual offences, serious assaults and robbery.
It would be easy to see this as a soft option. It would be easy to call for tougher sentences.
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But before any of us jump to a judgement on this issue we should listen carefully to the words of PC Phil Skedgell, a restorative justice support officer for Devon and Cornwall Police.
He says it is about "repairing the damage". He goes on to explain it is an attempt to create a proportionate response to minor crime.
Traditional sentences concentrate on the criminal in terms of punishment and rehabilitation. The victim's voice is rarely heard.
Restorative justice provides a forum which involves the victim and helps address their needs.
Forcing criminals to face up to the consequences of their actions and making amends is a constructive approach. For some this may be a greater deterrent than a prison sentence.
Care must be taken to ensure this approach is used with discretion and is not simply employed to relieve the pressure on our creaking judicial system.
This is an admirable attempt to make sure that not only the punishment fits the crime, but that it also suits the victim. Perhaps the key is not the word restorative but the word justice.