As part of my work with some wonderful dedicated social workers on a programme which will try to address domestic abuse in families with children, I have been doing some background research on restorative justice or mediation approaches.
There is little research work in this field. However, HMP Cardiff commissioned Marian Liebmann and Lindy Wooton’s report of 2008 (updated 2010). This report summarises developments in the UK which make interesting reading it also highlights a need for better research and understanding;
“The government consultation paper Restorative justice: the Government’s strategy (Home Office 2003) asked a question on restorative justice and domestic violence:
- What would be the benefits and disadvantages of developing more specific principles in particular areas – for example for sensitive offences such as hate crimes, sex crimes and domestic violence?
The responses showed that views were strongly polarised: ‘Domestic violence specialists were strongly against their use in any such cases, while proponents of restorative justice thought they could be beneficial in some cases.’ The arguments against the use of restorative justice centred round the risk of re-victimisation, the power imbalance and the seriousness of domestic violence. Those involved in restorative justice cited the right to choose, the use of highly skilled facilitators and a multi-agency approach. The government conclusion was that more evidence was required on what works for victims. (Home Office 2004a)
Accordingly, the subsequent publication Best Practice Guidance for Restorative Practitioners, based on discussions with many restorative justice organisations, under Section B: Sensitive and complex cases, says: ‘The use of restorative processes in domestic violence cases is not agreed; the government’s forthcoming paper on domestic violence will address this issue.’ (Home Office 2004b). At the time of writing (August 2008), this paper was still awaited. Meanwhile the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill was passed in November 2004, providing new powers for courts to deal with perpetrators of domestic violence, closing some anomalous loopholes and giving victims statutory rights (Home Office 2004c). These are enshrined in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, launched in April 2006 (Home Office 2006). However, restorative justice is not included.”