Wales

Restorative justice 'not replacing criminal justice'

File photo of abused woman Image copyright Thinkstock

Attempts to help couples involved in domestic abuse would only be welcome if the abuser has stopped being violent, a women's charity has said.

The Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership (WRAP) said couples should receive more help to prevent and repair harm caused by abusive relationships.

But Women's Aid said the approach could "excuse" the action of the perpetrator and could cause serious damage.

The UK Government has spent £23m on programmes over the last three years.

Police and crime commissioners across Wales and England are responsible for developing restorative services in their areas, with some offering more than others.

South Wales-based WRAP is part of the DARFA consortium which offers a programme which helps families come together to discuss the effects of violence in the home, with the aim of restoring communication or helping couples break up amicably and preventing further incidents.

Tammi Owen, WRAP's lead on domestic abuse, said: "One of the main aims of restorative approaches is to break the cycle of domestic violence.

"Working restoratively has a wraparound approach so the whole family's included and what we find is when families come up with their own solutions, it's more likely to stick."

The approach has caused controversy, with some women's groups claiming that reuniting victims and perpetrators could be dangerous.

'Victim-blaming'

Eleri Butler, chief executive of Women's Aid, said: "We don't think restorative justice or restorative approaches has any place in the context of domestic abuse where it's understood to be intentional, coercive, controlling behaviour which involves a pattern of psychological, physical or financial abuse, threats or intimidation.

"Restorative approaches only have a place where the perpetrator has stopped the violence and abuse, taken responsibility for that violence and when it's at the victim's request and when there's a clear and genuine need for that approach to happen.

"I think we live in a society which doesn't take domestic abuse seriously - which blames victims, which excuses the abusers behaviour which sees domestic abuse as an isolated incident."

WRAP said it agreed with the charity.

But Ms Owen added: "What we're saying is every person should have a voice. We're not saying it should replace criminal justice, we saying people should have a choice."

In September, the Justice Committee of MPs said the UK Government's provision of programmes had been a "postcode lottery".

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "It is vital victims see swift and certain justice delivered to offenders.

"Under the Victims' Code, which was introduced last year, all victims can now receive information on how they can take part in restorative justice."

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