Restorative justice brings those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward. This is part of a wider field called restorative practice.
Restorative practice can be used anywhere to prevent conflict, build relationships, and repair harm by enabling people to communicate effectively and positively. Restorative practice is increasingly being used in schools, children’s services, workplaces, hospitals, communities, and the criminal justice system.
Restorative practice can involve both a proactive approach to preventing harm and conflict and activities that repair harm where conflicts have already arisen.
Where the latter is required, a facilitated restorative meeting can be held. This enables individuals and groups to work together to improve their mutual understanding of an issue and jointly reach the best available solution. But in many cases a less formal approach, based on restorative principles, may be more appropriate.
Restorative practice supports people to recognise that all of their activities affect others, and that people are responsible for their choices and actions and can be held accountable for them. It enables people to reflect on how they interact with each other and consider how best to prevent harm and conflict.
There are six principles of restorative practice:
The primary aim of restorative practice is to address participants needs and not cause further harm. The focus of any process must be on promoting restorative practice that is helpful, explores relationships and builds resilience.
The participation in restorative practice is voluntary and based on open, informed, and ongoing choice and consent. Everyone has the right to withdraw at any point.
Restorative practitioners must remain impartial and ensure their restorative practice is respectful, non-discriminatory, and unbiased towards all participants. Practitioners must be able to recognise potential conflicts of interest which could affect their impartiality.
Safety processes and practice aim to ensure the safety of all participants and create a safe space for the expression of feelings and views which must result in no further harm being caused.
Restorative practice must be respectful and inclusive of any diversity needs such as mental health conditions, disability, cultural, religious, race, gender, or sexual identity.
Restorative practice must support individuals to feel more confident in making their own informed choices to find solutions and ways forward which best meet their needs.
Oxford ADR is one of the pioneers in Restorative Justice/ practices in South Asia. The Chairman of the organisation is a world-renowned researcher, academician and professional in this area. He wrote his PhD thesis in Restorative Justice at the University of Essex, UK.