A service set up to hold offenders to account and help them to take responsibility for the harm caused is celebrating rapid achievements in its first three years.
The Essex Restorative and Mediation Service works out of the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex and complements the work of organisations such as the police and Victim Support. The service gives victims an opportunity meet or communicate with those who have caused them harm.
Both parties discuss next steps and the perpetrators can make amends. Victims are given the chance to explain the impact the crime or conflict has had on them, ask questions of the perpetrator and seek an apology.
Emma Goddard, Restorative and Mediation Service Manager for the Office of The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “The service is such a simple idea. It works for every scenario and is needed. It provides a positive outcome and everyone involved sees the benefit.”
The service recently released its Restorative Justice Annual Report for the year 2017 / 2018, celebrating delivering an effective service; raising awareness; valuing volunteers and being innovative. You can read the full report here: Restorative and Mediation Service Report 2017-18
Emma said: “The service has grown so much since it started, much more than we ever expected it to. It has grown in terms of how many people use the service, the positive reputation and good feedback we get and the range of people who refer to us and the different types of work sent to us. One day we are dealing with a neighbour dispute, the next a homicide.
“To receive the Restorative Service Quality Mark within 18 months of launching was just brilliant.”
The service was launched in west Essex, with a vow to take on any referrals other than those relating to sexual offences or domestic incidents as it was felt more training was required first.
Now, as a result of further training for the most experienced restorative and mediation volunteer facilitators over the last year, the service can help those involved in complex and sensitive cases.
The majority of the organisation’s referrals now come from the police, with 40 coming from Colchester, 39 from Southend and 37 from Thurrock in the last year. Other referrals come from Essex Youth Offending, councils, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service and prisons.
Plans are in place to expand the service further, with a pilot to be held in a GP surgery and work to be carried out in schools. Volunteers will also now attend antisocial behaviour meetings at Community Safety Hubs in Harlow, Brentwood, Thurrock, Southend, Basildon, Chelmsford and Tendring to raise awareness and strengthen links.
Emma added: “We want to keep expanding.
“The Victim’s Code we practise says every victim should have the opportunity to take part. We want to make sure we are getting an increase in referrals from other providers and making it easy for people to self-refer.
“We want to keep going and to be in a position where everyone can access the service.”
Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Victims are at the heart of everything we do. This service makes a real difference to people’s lives and can really help people to move on and rebuild their lives as well as giving the perpetrators a chance to face up to their actions and change their behaviour in the future. I would like to say well done to the team and a big thank you to all our volunteers who give up their time to provide such a valuable service.”
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org Volunteers must be over 18.
Case study – Southchurch Hall Gardens
In summer 2017, the service was called to work with an issue of street drinkers in a park in Southchurch. Residents had concerns people drinking in the park was affecting wildlife, causing mess and driving the community out of the park. Evidence of drug use and prostitution had also been found.
A community justice panel was held in the park where council staff, shop owners, residents and those who were drinking in the park could get together to discuss the concerns and produce an action plan.
Six months later, the park was transformed. One resident said: “You would not recognise Southchurch Hall Gardens. The duck families have started to return to the pond and people are seen daily happily strolling around the park, from dog walkers to families.
“The volume of our weekly litter picks has reduced from six full sacks on first pick, to half a sack.
“I can’t thank you enough for your very positive input.”
Other innovations this year
Facts and figures
If your enquiry relates to operational policing or a crime please contact Essex Police here