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Restorative justice and the police: Exploring the institutionalisation of restorative justice in two English forces

Restorative justice and the police: Exploring the institutionalisation of restorative justice in two English forces
Ian Dominic Marder


School of Law, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UNITED KINGDOM.


Recent years have seen widespread efforts to develop restorative justice (RJ) in domestic criminal justice processes. Yet, as RJ has been implemented within existing systems, institutional priorities, goals and ways of working have shaped its interpretation and use – a phenomenon to which theoretical and empirical research has been insufficiently attentive.

This thesis explores the use of RJ by two English police forces, namely Durham and Gloucestershire Constabularies. Official documents, descriptive statistics and qualitative interviews conducted with policymakers, managers and frontline practitioners from each area were used to investigate these forces’ RJ strategies, policies and practices. The findings indicate that, although RJ was understood and utilised somewhat differently between the forces, it was framed and enacted in both principally as a mechanism with which to satisfy victims and manage demand. At the same time, the flexibility of organisational policies and the low visibility of RJ delivery left frontline officers with considerable discretion to determine how to balance the needs and interests of all those with a stake in their work, and how to navigate the various restrictions, incentives and pressures which they faced when using RJ. The data suggest that this led to heterogeneous approaches to RJ delivery in practice, as police officers were largely enabled to determine, on a case-by-case basis, the extent to which they would use the RJ process to empower its participants.

This research seeks to advance the nascent field of restorative policing by exploring its relationship with the institutional context in which it takes place. It examines the practice of ‘street RJ’ which is widely used within English forces, but about which little has been written. Finally, it ascertains the implications of the institutionalisation of RJ for participants in police-led practices and foregrounds the (under-researched) experiences of those involved in its implementation.