SOUTH Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael is challenging individuals and agencies across South Wales to apply restorative justice - where offenders meet the victims of crime - consistently and professionally as part of their work.

Restorative justice is an approach that’s based on the assumption that a criminal act is a crime against the community.

It takes into account the needs and wishes of the victims and the community and encourages offenders to make amends and to be reintegrated back into society.

Victims can meet offenders face to face and make them understand the harm and anxiety caused by his or her actions.

Speaking to an audience of practitioners at the launch of the Quality Mark for the Restorative Justice Council in Cardiff, Mr Michael, the former MP foe Penarth and Cardiff South, said: “Promoting Restorative Justice is one of the key priorities for the local criminal justice system as set out in my Police and Crime Reduction Plan for South Wales.

"Research has shown a 27 per cent reduction in the rate of reoffending after a restorative intervention – that’s 27 per cent fewer crimes and 27 per cent fewer victims. The impact on victim satisfaction is clear at about 90 per cent.

“This is all about victims’ voices to be heard. It’s about preventing repeat offences and paying back your debt to society through work with the community, not through years in prison. In some cases prison is the only option but the restorative justice approach is in the interests of victims and the wider public – and it cuts reoffending.”

Restorative Justice is being encouraged by the Government and there is strong support across the political parties which helps the development of a victim-centred approach to justice. But Mr Michael explained to the audience of practitioners at the National Museum of Wales that with that breakthrough comes a significant challenge.

“The effectiveness of restorative justice when applied with a high degree of professionalism is no longer in doubt. But to carry the public with us the needs and wishes of victims must come first, and the methods used need to be consistent and at the highest professional and ethical standards.”

The launch of the Restorative Justice Council’s Quality Mark will help towards this as it is important that there is a single high quality standard across all uses of these restorative justice principles. As a result Mr Michael has commissioned Julia Houlston Clark to carry out a mapping exercise, funded through his partnership fund, to find out who is doing what and where in South Wales.

“It’s imperative to draw everyone into the same tent,” he said. “The challenge is to make sure that there is a coherent approach to the use of restorative justice across South Wales. There needs to be a consistency in the principles of restorative justice and a consistency in the quality of service.”

He added: “I am keen to see Restorative Justice used effectively across South Wales. There are already lots of excellent projects and lots of enthusiasm but too little co-ordination between them. We need to work together and my challenge is for South Wales to become an exemplar of restorative justice with a consistent and coherent approach. The strategic principles and standards of the restorative justice council’s Quality Mark provide the framework which now allows us to do that. “