Refuge responds to the Justice Select Committee’s report on restorative justice

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 22.09.57Responding to the Justice Select Committee’s report on restorative justice, Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, said:

“Refuge agrees with the Committee’s finding that “Level One”[1] restorative justice is not appropriate for cases of domestic violence. However, Refuge is extremely disappointed that the Committee’s report does not recommend excluding all domestic violence cases from restorative justice processes.

“Perpetrators of domestic violence wield great power over the women they abuse, and this power can remain long after a relationship has ended. While restorative justice may offer some opportunities for the wider criminal justice system, it is clear that any ‘restorative’ contact between a perpetrator of domestic violence and his victim gives him further opportunity to abuse and re-traumatise her. Refuge is also concerned about the use of restorative justice in other cases of violence against women and girls, including ‘honour’ based violence in a family setting.

“Refuge has supported abused women for more than four decades. Perpetrators often use remorse and apology as a means of regaining control after an episode of abuse. Many women live in hope that their partners will change – that their “good side” will reappear. Restorative justice processes risk putting women back in contact with their abusers, exposing them to emotional pressure and possible future violence. Restorative justice is not safe in cases of domestic violence. Excluding domestic violence survivors is a crucial step in ensuring victims are protected in the justice system.

“Assurances that no woman would be forced to take part in a restorative justice programme, or that staff overseeing restorative justice practices would be well trained, are flawed – techniques of control can be so subtle it would be impossible for agencies to guarantee a woman was not subject to manipulation.

“Domestic violence is an horrific crime that kills two women every week. Women up and down the country live with the fact that a violent attacker has the key to their front door, 365 days a year. Women begging for help are often not taken seriously by the police; and women who do leave are running out of escape routes, as refuge services have their funding cut. Already in our society, the experiences of abused women are dismissed and ignored. We must be careful not to trivialise domestic violence further by suggesting to abused women that contact with her perpetrator will repair the psychological harm done to her.

“Refuge supports 3,800 women and children escaping domestic violence on any given day. What abused women need first and foremost is a place of safety. They also need consistent therapeutic or psychological support in order to help them move on from their experiences. Restorative justice will not provide this.

“We support the statement shared by former Home Secretary Theresa May to the Police Federation in May when speaking on restorative justice: “I simply do not believe it follows either the evidence or common sense to sit vulnerable victims across from perpetrators who for months and years may have destroyed their confidence, manipulated their mind, and beaten their bodies.”

“I sincerely hope that in future we do not see cases where an abused woman has returned to her violent partner following a restorative justice process, only to experience further violence, or worse.”

For media enquiries contact the Refuge Press Office on press@refuge.org.uk or 0207 395 7731.

Out of hours and weekend enquiries: 07970 894240

[1] “‘Level 1 RJ’ is usually facilitated by police officers between offenders, victims and other stakeholders in attendance at the time of the incident. This is often used in combination with a community resolution or a conditional caution.” p.5, House of Commons Justice Committee: Restorative justice, Fourth Report of Session 2016–17 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmjust/164/164.pdf