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Offender fines to boost restorative justice funding

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Media captionMargaret Foxley speaks about meeting the man who burgled her home

At least £29m recovered from offenders in fines and confiscations will be used to boost restorative justice programmes over the next three years, Justice Minister Damian Green has announced.

That money will be given to police and crime commissioners and charities in England and Wales.

Restorative justice enables victims of crime to meet offenders as part of their rehabilitation process.

Mr Green said this allows victims to explain the crime's impact.

It can take the form of a face-to-face meeting, a community conference or indirect communication.

The Ministry of Justice said its research around pilot projects found that 85% of victims who used the conferencing option were satisfied with the experience.

It also suggested that the process was associated with an estimated 14% reduction in the frequency of re-offending.

The extra £29m revenue is being provided by extending the victim surcharge imposed on offenders and increasing fines for fixed penalty notices for disorder and motoring fixed penalty notices, the MoJ said.

For the remaining six months of the current financial year, £5m is being ring-fenced, of which £3.85m will be distributed to PCCs.

A further £10m is earmarked for 2014-15 and at least £14 million has been set aside for 2015-16.

Just over £1 million was spent by the MoJ in 2012-13.

Mr Green said: "Many victims of crime get to see sentences handed down in the courts, but it's not always enough to help them move on with their lives. Restorative justice gives victims the opportunity to look offenders in the eye and explain to them the real impact the crime has had on their life.

"The process also provides a chance for offenders to face the consequences of their actions."

He said it was "not a soft option" and would not lead to offenders escaping punishment. Crimes of a serious nature will continue to be progressed through the courts, he added.

Gaynor McKeown, the lead on restorative justice at independent charity Victim Support, said: "Victims tell us that they want to see offenders punished, but also they don't want to see their offender commit another crime.

"Our work shows that when restorative justice is planned around the victim's wishes, it helps them move on with their lives, and can reduce crime by getting offenders to appreciate the impact of their actions on others."

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