Restorative Justice – time for action

Even though it’s been around for 30 years, Restorative Justice in Scotland is still not being used to its full potential. Pamela Morrison tells us why she’s backing the drive to change this, with the introduction of the Restorative Justice Action Plan.

As a new member of the practice team (albeit for the second time around), I was delighted to be given the responsibility as the lead for Restorative Justice (RJ). This is an area I am really passionate about since commencing my career as a RJ practitioner with SACRO, and fully support the principles and ethos of the approach.

RJ has been part of the landscape in Scotland since the late 1980s. It is not a new concept and something that has been well researched internationally across all areas of the justice system. Across the country, use of restorative practice and principles is patchy, something that was highlighted in a survey report completed by Community Justice Scotland in 2018. So why, over 30 years later do we still not see RJ happening in practice across Scotland? Why all people who are harmed not being offered RJ as a matter of course? And why are all the children and young people who are in conflict with the law not being offered the opportunity to repair some of the harm caused by their actions?

My reflections come on the back of attending the RJ forum, an independent group which aims to bring together everyone interested in the development of RJ in Scotland, including those from the statutory and voluntary sectors, academics and policy makers. The drive, passion, enthusiasm and dedication from the individuals in the room was apparent throughout the discussions and a real privilege to be part of. Despite this, however, there continues to be barriers, structural and cultural, preventing this from transferring into practice.

BUT, do we now have a window of opportunity to change this?

Despite it appearing that there has been a political will to implement RJ across the country for many years, the Scottish Government have now supported this by developing the Restorative Justice Action Plan. This details that the Government is committed to having RJ services widely available across Scotland by 2023, with the interests of victims at their heart. To me this would appear to be a real opportunity to make this step forward, to put into practice what the research is telling us.

Within the action plan there are a number of actions set out to fulfil the vision that “Restorative Justice is available across Scotland to all those who wish to access it, and at a time that is appropriate to the people and case involved”, and has three overarching outcomes:

– Restorative Justice is available across Scotland.
– High quality restorative justice services are delivered by trained facilitators
– There is a strong public awareness and understanding of Restorative Justice in Scotland

The Scottish Government will be progressing the action plan in order to achieve their vision. In the meantime I will be including the barriers to practice in a young person’s journey through the youth justice system and how RJ can fit within this – watch this space for more information.

As part of the Scottish Government’s action plan it clearly indicates that in order to move forward it aims to “Develop the National RJ Practitioners Network in Scotland”. Fortunately for them there is already a practitioners’ forum established to provide practitioners with a ‘safe space’ to develop their knowledge and reflect on issues in practice. In addition, the forum also allows practitioners to benefit from the experience of peers whose work, in the same or similar area, is underpinned by restorative principles, and as I have already mentioned, something I really enjoyed attending. For more information and if you would like to join me, please contact Ciara.Webb@edinburgh.gov.uk.

So let’s grab this opportunity to finally make the changes to RJ practice across Scotland, allowing it to be available to all those who wish to access it, and at a time that is appropriate to the people and case involved. I, for one, am really excited to be part of this!

If you want to support this action, please contact me on pamela.i.morrison@strath.ac.uk.

About our blogger

Pamela Morrison is a Practice Development Advisor with CYCJ. Read more.


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