Here at Sudbury District Restorative Justice, we follow the following five principles for good restorative practice, as outlined by the European Forum for Restorative Justice.
Principle One: Restorative values and positive outcomes are best served when communication between the parties is direct and authentic. Face to face meetings are favoured though this may not always be possible. This requires the restorative process to be inclusive.
Principle Two: Restorative processes should designed and facilitated to fit the needs, capabilities and culture of the participants. This means that restorative processes should not be designed to be ‘one size fits all’ or prescriptive in their delivery.
Principle Three: The effective participation in restorative processes is enhanced if each person’s capabilities, views, emotions and needs are equally recognised and valued.
The invitation to participate and preparation for participation are key phases of restorative processes in implementing these principles.
- Invitation to participate: People should only participate on the basis of fully informed consent.
- Each party should understand the purpose, ground rules, process and what is expected of them prior to consenting to participate. There should be no attempt to pressure an individual to participate.
- The process should be designed to fit the needs, capabilities and culture of the parties. For this reason it is useful to listen to and fully understand each person’s narrative before explaining how the restorative process will address their needs and accommodate their capabilities and culture.
- Each party should be invited to talk about any concerns or fears that they may have about the process. The practitioner should explain how these concerns will be addressed. It is important that every individual should believe that the process will be safe (though not necessarily comfortable). There should be clear ground rules. Voluntary participation includes that each individual should be aware that they can cease their participation in the process at any time. Refusal to participate in a restorative process should not have any consequences in any further criminal justice process.
- Any practical obstacles (transport, time, venue, domestic responsibilities etc.) should be overcome as far as that is possible.
- Preparation to participate: People should be prepared so that they feel capable of active participation in the process.
- When appropriate, participants should be invited to bring supporters to the meeting.
- Participants should be aware of how the process will proceed and what is expected of them so that they can prepare what they wish to say and how they wish to say it.
Principle Four: Restorative values and positive outcomes are best served through dialogue among the participants leading to mutual understanding and agreed action. People need each other to repair harm and to resolve issues.
Dialogue involves a conversation focused on reaching mutual understanding on issues and agreement on what to do. The key task of the practitioner is to keep the dialogue on track and facilitate the participants to talk with each other according to the ground rules.
- Communication between the participants:
- The form of the restorative process should be chosen and designed to fit with the needs, capabilities and culture of the participants.
- Each participant should be supported to articulate their experience of the harm or issue in a manner of their choosing.
- It is important that each participant feels able to express their emotions, needs, questions and requests freely.
- Communication between participants should be respectful.
- Agreements should be based upon a mutual understanding of the harm or issue and the obligations that arise from this understanding, should be freely entered into and should be specific on actions, on responsibilities and on time limits.
Principle Five: Actions agreed through a restorative process should be implemented rigorously. For restorative justice to be trusted by participants and the general public, the agreements made must be honoured explicitly. This requires personal responsibility, social support and a means of accountability.
- Implementation and review of any action agreed.
- Those responsible for agreed actions should receive the support that they need.
- Opportunities to review progress should be scheduled.
- Those who fail to fulfil their commitments should be enabled to make themselves accountable.