COMMUNITY-led restorative justice is a “win-win situation", according to a top police officer.
Chief Insp Carol Martin was speaking about the introduction of Redeeming Our Communities (ROC) Restore project to Bolton, in which volunteers will conduct meetings between victims and perpetrators to find a solution.
The town will be the fourth place in the country where the ROC charity has introduced the project.
It will involve the charity working with Greater Manchester Police and Bolton Council.
Ch Insp Martin, from Bolton police, said: “We want to get the community to drive restorative justice.
“We don’t always get the best result from victims or the offenders as they may have had involvement with the police in the past, so we are not always the best people to do it.
“We have seen what a huge difference restorative justice can make to the victim and the offender.
"We want victims to be satisfied and that we are turning offenders away from crime — it’s a win-win situation.”
She added that restorative justice can be more effective than prosecuting people for low-level crimes and recovering small costs, for broken windows for example.
Her comments were made at The Grace Centre in Somerset Road, Heaton, where a meeting was held to explain to potential volunteers what the work will involve.
ROC will fund the three-day training course carried out by Restorative Solutions, a certified training firm, with funds received through grants.
Restorative Solutions has given the charity 10 training packages to be organised nationally — one to be based in Bolton and one in Bury.
Rebecca Green, national development manager at the Manchester-based charity, said: “It is truly amazing to see victims of crime brought together with the perpetrators to address some of the concerns.
“Crime can break communities apart. For me it’s a fantastic project and I am delighted to be working with GMP to help the community to help themselves.
“We want to train community members to hold their own restorative justice meetings. Dealing with issues in the community can bring healing and change to their lives for the long term.”
She added that restorative justice was not a “get out of jail free card”.
It can help some people to deal with issues together, rather than needing police intervention in the future.
Volunteers are still being sought. The three-day training courses will lead to a level two qualification.
Restorative justice hearings will be heard when referrals are made by the police, Bolton Council and other agencies and can be worked around volunteers’ availability. Some can take several hours and others may last months.
Criminals are 33 per cent less likely to continue offending on release from prison after restorative justice than without it, a report has claimed.
The report, commissioned by Smith Institute, found that restorative justice gave victims and offenders more satisfaction with justice than criminal justice.
It is said for every £1 spent on restorative justice hearings, more than £1 was saved in direct criminal justice costs and £9 was saved in fighting the cost of crime.
Training will be held at Halliwell UCAN Centre on June 7, 14 and 15.
People interested in getting involved are asked to call Andy Bell on 0161 9462373 or on 07985 288645 or email firstname.lastname@example.org