A NEW restorative justice programme bringing together victims of crime and offenders has been launched across the region.

The initiative aims to support victims’ recovery, whilst helping to prevent reoffending.

More than 100 representatives of enforcement agencies and partner organisations attended a launch event.

And victims who have already been helped by restorative justice spoke about their experiences.

The new service has been commissioned by West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, who has invested £900,000 in the scheme over the next three years.

He describes the work as “groundbreaking” and is confident it will have a significant impact.

“Although this scheme has previously been available in pockets within the county this expansion to a West Yorkshire-wide service represents a huge step forward,” said Mr Burns-Williamson.

“There is clear evidence of the difference this approach has made and I have worked extremely hard over recent years to reach this vision in conjunction with police and key partners.

“It is important that victims experience the same level of support wherever they live in the county and have the opportunity to play a role in the process, in conjunction with the criminal justice system.

“For instance, an acknowledgement of the harm an offence has caused and a reconciliation through rehabilitation is all some wish to see.

“Clearly that depends on the victim and the particular circumstances, but it is crucial that we explore all the options around our approach.

“In doing so, we can generate greater victim satisfaction and put offenders on a positive path that deters future criminal behaviour in their community.

“The work we are doing also expands to Wakefield Prison and other prisons including HMP Leeds, where staff are helping to carefully manage restorative conferences, supporting both the victim and the offender.”

He adds that the programme, contracted to Restorative Solutions CIC, will build on existing work carried out to help victims and perpetrators engage with each other.

West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable, Catherine Hankinson, welcomes the venture.

She added: “Working with Restorative Solutions, we will seek to allow victims the chance to have a true voice within the criminal justice process.

“Restorative justice is already used in some areas of England and Wales and ensures that victims, who are willing, are able to meet their offenders in order to explain the impact of the crime and to make the offenders face up to their actions.”

Victims of crime wanting to learn more should visit rjwestyorkshire.org.uk or call 0800 783 1550.