Students restoring justice in the community

Posted on Monday 13th February 2017

First-year psychology students at the University of Bolton are doing their bit to restore justice in the local community, thanks to an innovative new scheme.

Sixteen students are taking part in the Neighbourhood Justice Panel, a programme which works to settle local disputes and minor crimes, without the need to go to court.

The programme is designed to stop repeat offending and instead provide a quicker resolution where the offender makes a reconciliation. The process is suitable for adults and youths and is facilitated by trained community volunteers.

The panels encourage wrongdoers to acknowledge the impact of what they have done and make amends to the victim and wider community.

Police Sergeant Jonathan Seeds, who attended the training day and advised the students, said: ‘The restorative justice scheme brings the reality of what an offender has done much more to light than the traditional route of going to court. We want young adults who have offended to change their behaviour, move forward with their lives and be valuable members of the Bolton community.’

Restorative Justice 1

The partnership between the University and Greater Manchester Police began last year with an initial cohort of 15 students. They received accredited training in restorative justice and practices with the aim of them being able to facilitate restorative conferences within the community.

The programme has proven to be a tremendous success with the first group of students having worked on over 20 cases in the past year. Funding has now been secured by the University to train another 16 students through Wigan Council.

‘Restorative Justice is about relationship building and repairing harm that has been caused,’ said Jessica Pester, Community Reparation Co-ordinator at Restorative Solutions for Wigan Council.

‘Research shows that this approach works. Being able to have people take responsibility for their actions and look to the future is more successful than a traditional route of punishment.

‘Over the three days training we have done a lot of theory about restorative justice and restorative practices. We’ve been learning skills to help the volunteers when they hold conferences which is to bring the harmed and the harmer together after an offence has been committed.’

Students specifically focused on the different techniques and ways to speak to people in order to remain impartial during the process. They also learnt about the different theories on why people react the way that they do, such as to grief and shame, in order to empathise with them.

Restorative Justice 2

‘I’m really looking forward to going out and putting into practice all the skills we have learnt,’ said Criminological & Forensic Psychology student Carole Mead.

‘This will give me a whole new breadth of knowledge from the victims’ perspective and getting the harmed and the harmer to work together.

‘It’s an amazing opportunity that I was really honoured to be accepted onto and I really hope I can make a difference.’

The project is being overseen by Dr Gill Allen, Associate Teaching Professor in Psychology and programme lead of BSc (Hons) Criminological and Forensic Psychology.

‘We specifically selected students from the first year as we’re hopeful they’ll commit to the programme for the full duration of their studies,’ said Dr Gill Allen.

‘They will develop their skills over the three years, but will be in a position to then pass that knowledge on to other students.

‘Our existing panel will mentor this year’s students and whereas it was brand new last year, we can now focus on improving the quality, training and supervision available to students.’