Two weeks ago BBC 3 broadcasted a very powerful documentary on the use and value of Restorative Justice in Britain. Featuring former Eastender’s actress Brooke Kinsella whose sixteen year old brother, Ben, was stabbed to death in London in 2008, the documentary aimed at exploring whether it was possible for victims and perpetrators of crime to come face to face and restore in the victims a sense of moral and personal justice that often time the courts cannot address. Through the process of restorative justice victims of crime can questions the offenders directly and regain in the process a sense of empowerment and control over their lives and bring a sense of closure to the trauma they had faced. Prior to watching this documentary I did not know this form of justice existed in Britain. I knew it was used in countries like South Africa and Rwanda to try and rebuild peace and reconciliation after the violence of the past but I did not know it was possible to do this here.
Of course restorative justice is not a substitute for the criminal justice system. People who have committed severe crimes will always face justice. Only minor crimes can be dealt with this system and only if the victims agrees to this. But I think this is a very good way of dealing with the trauma of crime and in many cases it is also a powerful way for criminals to realise the extent of their crimes on the victims. There were many examples of how restorative justice had changed the life of criminals and victims alike forever. Criminals stopped reoffending and victims felt in control once again of their lives. Some stories were truly inspirational and a testament to the capacity of words and true emotions to heal even the most painful of trauma.
I do not know personally if I would be confident and bold enough to face a criminal who had impacted on my life in a most dramatic way and have a conversation with him. This is the case of Brooke Kinsella who understandably does not feel ready, and perhaps would never feel ready, to meet her brother’s murderers. But I feel that restorative justice is a powerful tool for the victims to bring closure and to regain control of their lives and for the offenders to come face to face with the emotional impact their action can cause on other human beings.