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Victims 'should be given more power in sentencing'
VICTIMS should be given more power in sentencing decisions, according to a North-East academic.
Dr Thom Brooks, from Durham Law School at Durham University, suggests the current restorative justice process does not go far enough in improving public confidence and saving taxpayers' money.
Dr Brooks is presenting his research at an international conference organised by the Howard League for Penal Reform in Oxford tomorrow (WEDS).
The restorative justice process allows victims the chance to tell offenders the real impact of the crime, to get answers to their questions and to receive an apology.
It also gives offenders a chance to understand the impact of their actions and to do something to repair the harm they have caused. This is usually done in a restorative conference where the victim and offender meet.
Dr Brooks suggests restorative justice could help to further reduce re-offending rates and improve public confidence at a lower cost to taxpayers, and should be used more widely. He proposes it could be extended by adding a greater punishment element, whereby victims have some power over the offender's sentence, including suspended prison sentences.
Dr Brooks said: "Restorative conferences are currently unable to impose the threat of prison but I believe this is a mistake. If we permit victims, in line with magistrates, to have some power over the offender's sentence, including suspended prison sentences, restorative conferences could be used more widely and could help to further reduce re-offending."
"This 'punitive restoration' approach would also yield further savings to taxpayers in avoiding the need to conduct further meetings or future trials before offenders are punished for failing to abide by the contractual agreements forged through restorative justice meetings," he added.
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