We spoke with Hampshire Service Delivery Manager Laura Cairns, at Restorative Solutions, who told us about the delivery of their hate crime awareness course.
Restorative Solutions' Hate Crime Awareness Course (HCAC) was the first course in the country designed to specifically target instances of hate crime and also to offer restorative justice for hate crime incidents. Prior to this, hate crime cases would be referred straight to the Crown Prosecution Service for a charging decision, with little opportunity offered for perpetrators to understand their behaviour and work towards correcting it, nor for victims to engage in restorative justice.
Between July 2018 and July 2019 the scheme was piloted in Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. In September 2020 the scheme was rolled out across the whole of Hampshire after the success of the pilot.
A non-statutory out of court disposal can be issued by a police officer in response to a hate crime incident, in the form of a Community Resolution. The Community Resolution would be issued with the condition that the individual in question attends the HCAC. However, certain criteria must be met before an individual is offered a Community Resolution for a hate crime incident. For example, no physical assault must have taken place during the incident and no person with extremist views will be eligible. Furthermore, it must be the perpetrator’s first hate crime offence and additionally, there must also be an admission of guilt from the perpetrator. Critically, the victim must also agree to the perpetrator being offered the course. Laura told us that victims very often agreed to this, as they saw the course as being an opportunity for a perpetrator to develop a better understanding of what they had done and to change their behaviour moving forward. The majority of incidents committed by an individual which would fit the eligibility criteria for the course to be offered are usually categorised as public order offences or malicious communication offences.
Initially the victim is contacted and the nature of the course is explained to them. At this stage they are also offered restorative justice. During this initial contact with the victim they are asked whether they wish for any questions to be put to the perpetrator and whether they would like to receive any feedback. They may accept or decline both the offer of being updated on the perpetrator’s progress and also their own involvement in restorative justice. The perpetrator may also decline restorative justice with no further repercussions as it is entirely voluntary for both parties. Any restorative justice between the two parties is scheduled after the completion of the HCAC.
The HCAC consists of two questionnaires and six exercises. The session looks at what happened during an incident with the participant asked to describe and reflect on what they were feeling and thinking at the time. The participant is then invited to reflect on the impact of hate crime on the victim, those known to the victim, those who witnessed the event, as well as the impact on themselves. Following this, the course encourages the participant to consider how they could have behaved differently during the incident, and crucially, how they can behave differently in the future to prevent further victims of hate crime.
Learning and change
Feedback from participants of the HCAC has been overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority of participants stating that their understandings around what constitutes a hate crime have improved. Crucially, participants have expressed a deeper understanding of the impact their actions have had on victims and that through better understanding and newly developed skills they are significantly less likely to commit further offences.
Growth and funding
Restorative Solutions, also has contracts to deliver the course in Dorset, Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire. The scheme runs in the same way in these areas as it does within Hampshire. Funding for the schemes filters down from the MoJ to the Police and Crime Commissioners, who put contracts out to tender to run restorative justice programmes in their regions. This is something they must do in accordance with the Victims Code.
This case-study was compiled by Jason Watt in 2021