Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited Sussex today to mark the third year of co-ordinated restorative justice across the county.
Princess Anne, who is Patron of the Restorative Justice Council, was welcomed to Sackville House in Lewes by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne to learn more about the work of the award-winning Sussex Restorative Justice Partnership.
Mrs Bourne said, “When Police and Crime Commissioners were given the responsibility to deliver victim services, some areas of the country were slow to buy in to the idea of restorative justice. In Sussex I made it a priority to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system and had no doubt that restorative justice should form an important part of this provision.
“Before our partnership was formed restorative justice was inconsistent across Sussex. Two-and-a-half years down the line we have a dedicated group of practitioners, criminal justice agencies and voluntary organisations from across the spectrum of criminal justice, all working together to ensure both victims and wrongdoers are offered the chance to access a restorative service.”
During her visit The Princess Royal heard from speakers including volunteer restorative justice facilitators, victims of crime and one former offender who shared their experiences of the process. East Sussex High Sheriff Michael Foster, Cllr Nigel Enever, chair of Lewes District Council, Mayor of Lewes Graham Mayhew and Giles York, Chief Constable of Sussex Police, were also among the guests at the event.
“Restorative justice is about people coming together, their voices being heard and feelings registered,” Stephen Wells, a volunteer facilitator for the Sussex Restorative Justice Partnership, told the audience.
“When a crime is committed, there is a need for answers and restorative justice can help to provide this by bringing together those who were harmed with those who have harmed them. It is transformative being listened to and having those questions answered.”
Campaigner Rosalyn Boyce told of her exceptionally brave decision to meet her attacker following a serious sexual assault 17 years ago.
“When he was convicted, I felt that I had my own life sentence,” says Rosalyn, who met her attacker in prison in 2014. “I realised that if I was ever going to fully recover, I was going to have to forgive the person that had done this to me.
“Since that three-hour conference, people close to me have noticed a huge change. I’m at peace; I’m not afraid. All the burden that I had been carrying round with me, I handed it back so I now feel a lot lighter and I genuinely don’t even think about him.
“Restorative justice is about empowering victims and giving them back what they have lost but it’s vital to listen to what they need.”
The audience also heard from ex-offender Jake who found out about restorative justice through his connection with a local charity and wrote to his victim to express his remorse.
“It was something that I really wanted to do as I was trying to turn my life around and it was hopefully a way for the victim to turn their life around too,” he said. “I wanted to put it in the past and to prove that I am not the person that I was on that night. It has given me a sense of empathy to understand what my actions can do to other people.
“I have carried this shame for a lot of my life and it has helped me to put that aside. I want to create a better life for myself and my child.”
“Today has been a fantastic opportunity to showcase the award-winning work that the Sussex Restorative Justice Partnership has been doing over the past three years,” says John Willett, Head of Partnerships for the Office of the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner.
“Restorative justice has been proven to have a greater impact on an offender than a prison sentence or a court punishment alone. With restorative justice, the offender has to face the consequences of their actions and, in the majority of cases, this will contribute to positive changes in their future behaviour.
“We were delighted that HRH Princess Anne was able to hear first-hand from some of those who have undergone restorative justice and to meet the amazing people who are making it possible across our county.”