14/05/2013 14:18 BST | Updated 14/07/2013 06:12 BST

Reducing Britain's Re-Offending Rate Needs Victim Focus


It's no secret that the re-offending rate in this country remains far too high and that the public find it alarming.

What's less publicised is what victims think about all this. Time and again victims tell me that, yes they want those who committed a crime to be punished, but also they want them to be rehabilitated - to stop offending and not to go down the same road again.

So it was good to see the Government try to tackle re-offending head on last week with its Transforming Rehabilitation Strategy.

Currently prisoners who serve less than a year in jail get no mandatory supervision on release - and 60% of them go on to reoffend in less than a year.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants them supervised for at least 12 months in the future under a 'rehabilitation revolution'

Our role here is to ensure the victims' perspective is not lost at this crucial moment.

One way would be for victim focused agencies to play a central part in the government's new rehabilitation revolution, working alongside offender based services to ensure that the victims' voice really is heard. After all, Mr Grayling has said he wants a range of outside agencies and charities to get involved.

The new system will apparently run on "payment by results". But its' unclear whether the only yardstick of success will be the re-offending rates or whether victim satisfaction will play a part in those results too. How about payments being linked to victim focused outcomes as well?

This would help, but I think we can go further.

I believe that part of the solution should be to make offenders face up to the devastating impact that their crimes can have on victims. One of the ways this can be done is through restorative justice and victim awareness programmes, which in turn can help cut crime.

What's more is we already know that up to 85% of victims who go through restorative justice conferences are satisfied. With the right safeguards in place, taking part can really help them move on.

But at the moment less than 1% of victims are offered restorative justice meaning we are wasting a golden opportunity to cut crime and help victims.

In this vein the commitment in the government's proposed new Code for Victims which makes victims more aware of restorative justice is most welcome.

Everyone wants to see re-offending do down. We need to remind people that models which focus exclusively on criminals have failed us in the past.

This is our chance to prove we have learnt our lesson by adopting a holistic approach to criminal justice and help really put the victim at the heart of the system.