HC Deb 11 May 1998 vol 312 cc7-8
8. Mr. Ross Cranston (Dudley, North)

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of restorative justice. [40270]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Ms Joyce Quin)

We believe that restorative justice ensures that young offenders face up to their behaviour. Measures in the Crime and Disorder Bill and our proposal for reform of the youth court are consistent with its underlying principles.

Mr. Cranston

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. She will know that the research of the Thames Valley restorative justice scheme shows that the rate of reoffending among the young people dealt with there is 3 per cent., whereas the normal rate is more than 30 per cent. I congratulate Ministers on introducing the Crime and Disorder Bill, which provides the legal framework for restorative justice. Will my hon. Friend, however, urge police forces throughout the country seriously to consider using restorative justice in their own area?

Ms Quin

My hon. Friend mentions the Thames Valley scheme, which has served as a good example for many other areas to follow. There are also good examples in the diversion unit in Northamptonshire and in the West Yorkshire probation service. Such measures are becoming much more widely accepted, and the partnerships in the Crime and Disorder Bill and measures such as the reparation order will give a boost to that approach to justice.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Does the Minister agree that, where restorative justice may be extended, great care must be taken to ensure that it is used only in appropriate cases? Constituents of mine were recently involved in a case that was dealt with by Thames Valley police, and were very unhappy with the way in which restorative justice was used. I have written to the chief constable. Will the Minister consider the correspondence that I will send her, which shows that restorative justice does not always work very well?

Ms Quin

I cannot comment on specific examples, but the Home Office will be keen to receive that information. Restorative justice must be used sensitively. I endorse the hon. Gentleman's points, particularly regarding the need to avoid causing further suffering to victims. We have to be careful in our use of restorative justice. None the less, it has been shown to be mutually beneficial in a number of cases, and we want to build on that.