Restorative Practice and the Police in Hull

A restorative approach compliments many aspects of police work. The desire to affect people’s behaviour through a shared understanding and responsibility is at the heart of both the criminal justice system and Restorative Practices (RP).

Neighbourhood policing aims to provide the public with a highly visible uniform presence in every neighbourhood, able to deal with local issues and priorities. Very often these issues involve residents who, for various reasons, have come into conflict with others in their community. Adopting a restorative approach provides officers with a means to resolve such neighbourhood disputes. By doing so they seek to promote a shared understanding, break down barriers and allow people to live happily side by side.

 

In addition a restorative approach can be used as a means of finalising the investigation into a crime. Providing a crime meets certain criteria (is of a less serious nature, the victim consents and the suspect is not a repeat offender) then the Police Divisional Commander for Hull has agreed for such crime reports to be finalised with a restorative disposal as an alternative to prosecution. This allows a proportionate response to criminal activity and prevents people (principally, but not exclusively young people) receiving a criminal record for minor 1st time offences.

 

Working with the Hull Centre of Restorative Practices 200 police and community supports officers have received a 1 day Introduction to Restorative Practices training course. In addition 85 officers have been trained to facilitate RP conferences. Officers are now able to work restoratively with trained partners in schools, care homes, youth services and other service areas. 3 officers are qualified as RP trainers, able to train new officers and people from other organisations.

 

Examples of a RP intervention include:

  • Following damage to a community centre a group of 8 local children were identified as being responsible. The manager of the centre did not wish to take the matter to court and instead was happy to finalise the investigation with a restorative conference. A conference was held with all 8 children, a responsible adult for each and the manager of the centre. The conference was very successful with all 8 children agreeing to attend the following week-end to clear a section of the centre’s garden of weeds and rubbish. All 8 children attended and carried out the agreed work. Not only did the conference help the children understand the consequences of their actions, it also acted as a mechanism to build community spirit.
  • A neighbour dispute had been ongoing for a number of years. Tensions escalated. which culminated in a fight where a male had told his female neighbour he was going to kill her. This was said in the heat of the moment with no intention to carry out what was seen as an idle threat. However the female neighbour took the threat seriously and had believed since that time that her neighbour meant to do her serious harm. 3 years later the local neighbourhood policing team become involved due to a number of minor neighbourhood incidents. RP was initially offered but the female stated she could not face her neighbour due to her fear of him. Tensions continued to increase to a point where the female was upset and suicidal. RP was again offered as an option and this time was accepted by both parties. After some initial difficulties all participants contributed fully to the conference. The male neighbour was genuinely shocked that his comments had been so damaging. All parties agreed to put the dispute behind them and move on with their lives.

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