A new role has been created to offer more victims of crime the opportunity to communicate with the person responsible.
As part of its new contract with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and Probation North East, Restorative Cleveland has appointed a dedicated Court Worker.
Nicola Wijesinghe will be based at Stockton-based charity Safer Communities. She will maintain close partnerships with Cleveland’s Courts and Probation North East.
She will engage with victims and offenders as part of the sentencing process to raise awareness of restorative justice and make referrals to Restorative Cleveland.
In addition, Nicola will liaise with court support services to increase referrals, at an earlier stage in an individual’s journey through the Criminal Justice System.
Nicola aims to build better relationships with probation court teams and the wider legal system during the pre-trial stages of hearings.
The aim is for better relationships to lead to increased awareness of restorative justice and a rise in the number of referrals, through increased understanding and ease of access. Nicola’s role is believed to be one of the first of its kind in the country.
Nicola said: “More recently, there has been a little more public awareness of restorative justice. There has been some coverage in the media.
“When I spend more time in the courts with people who can make referrals, it will be much more advantageous as I will be able to introduce myself and they will get to know what I do.”
Interventions delivered by Restorative Cleveland aim to give victims a stronger voice in the criminal justice system.
The Service upholds a victim’s right to be offered restorative justice at different stages of engagement. This right is highlighted within the Victims Code of Practice.
It allows victims to pose any questions they would like to ask the offender responsible about the crime. Restorative Justice also allows victims to communicate the impact of the offence on them, their family and local community.
It gives offenders the opportunity to find out the full impact of their crime on their victims, their families and community. It also gives them a chance to face up to their offending and to make amends.
In addition to the new Court RJ Worker, Restorative Cleveland has also introduced an Ambassador role.
Ambassadors are victims and offenders, who have previous experience of taking part in the Restorative Justice process.
The aim is for Ambassadors to talk about their experience and encourage more of their peers to take part.
Recruiting offenders means the individual’s support for restorative justice is authentic and comes from lived experience. They can also support their peers through the process to make sure they stay motivated.
The Ambassador role was developed after a male offender became passionately interested after he took part in restorative justice
The first Ambassador had previously committed an armed robbery and met his victim face-to-face to allow both of them to come to terms with his crime and try to move on.