Supplementary written evidence submitted by Inspector Dan Popple and Police Sergeant Michele Birch, West Midlands Police (MAC0047)

1. During my testimony I discussed how I would like to use restorative justice (RJ) to support a member of the public who has been subject to a poor stop and search. I was asked to provide an example of how it has been used, but I was unable at the time.  

2. Within WMP we have a dedicated team of RJ practitioners, along with support from across the organisation, totalling 61 trained members of staff. In addition to this we have collaboration with an external supplier who provide 14 RJ practitioners and 38 volunteers. Currently the RJ team hold approximately 3 conferences a week. Whilst this is mainly for matters between two members of the public, their skills in RJ are transferable. In addition to this work we are also exploring how we can use the team to help with work place mediation.

3. With the infrastructure and trained officers in place, in 2018 WMP developed a pilot to introduce RJ into professional standards. Unfortunately the uptake was very low, but there was one specific example which was deemed to be very successful. That related to a PCSO who became angry following a traffic incident and spoke with the member of the public in a uncivil way. Following the resolution the PSCO reflected on their actions and admitted they “saw red”.

4. With the changes in the regulations around complaints now in place, with an emphasis on practice requiring improvement, we in the Fairness in Policing team see this as an opportunity to use RJ more. In situations like stop & search it may be that those encounters don’t reach a threshold for misconduct, but there may still be a feeling of injustice. RJ allows people to restore that feeling of injustice. We are very lucky in WMP to have a team of trained RJ practitioners and our ambition is to use them more in the future to resolve issues relating to stop search. Our plan is to work with professional standards to help embed this process within the organisation. Our knowledge of procedural justice can assist our colleagues in professional standards to better understand the cause of an injustice and that by using RJ we may be in a position to reach reconciliation.  

Answers to further questions

(I had to refer to Sgt Michele Birch who works within the RJ team who has helped explain the detail you’ve asked for. She has provided the following responses.)

1)      In your evidence, you say that “Following the resolution the PSCO reflected on their actions and admitted they “saw red”. Is it possible to outline in slightly more detail what a resolution actually entails to provide the Committee with more insight into how the process works? As Dame Diane Johnson MP asked in the evidence session, Q114: “How do people feel that they have had their say and that it has been taken into account? What does that actually look like? So in the example you use, who would be involved int his process and how would it be initiated, and how long might it take? Any detail that you can provide would be useful.


5. The process for RJ to resolve complaints would first be triaged by PSD.  Once they have reviewed any evidence and decided that it is not misconduct, they would then offer RJ as a local informal resolution in order to give the victims a voice.  (I have attached a flow chart which we used within the pilot).   The RJ practitioner will then make contact with the officer in the first instance so as to prevent any chance of re-victimising the complainant or offering something which may not be available.  Once the officer has agreed, we then make contact with the complainant and explain that we would like to use restorative practice to resolve the complaint and allow the officer to better understand why the complainant felt they were unfairly treated.  The officer can then respond describing the incident from their point of view allowing both parties to understand and learn from each other.  The restorative process can be via a face to face conference if both parties agree, or could be via other means such as a letter, video recording or email.  It is the decision of the RJ practitioner to decide which process is more suited for each individual case whilst taking into consideration each person’s wishes and preferences.

6. With the example used, it was decided that whilst there was no evidence of misconduct, there was a desire from the PCSO to apologise to the complainant.  In that case, an RJ practitioner then made contact with the complainant and asked her how she would feel if the officer wrote to her to apologise and if there was anything that she would like to express to the PCSO about the incident.  Both parties were individually taken through a preparation phase by the RJ practitioner where they were encouraged to reflect on the incident and their behaviours.  The complainant admitted that her driving may have given cause for concern however felt aggrieved by the officers incivility and the way in which she was treated.  The PCSO had reflected on his own behaviour almost immediately on his own and regretted his actions, but allowed to reflect more throughout the preparation session, understanding why he had reacted in the way he did.  He was then able to write down his thoughts and feelings in a letter assisted by the practitioner to ensure that there was true learning taking place.

7. The letter was then given to the complainant who decided to write back, again facilitated by the preparation meeting with the RJ practitioner.  The apology was accepted and the victim stated that this had allowed her to “get over” the incident and put it behind her.  She was grateful that the PCSO had reflected and apologised and restored her faith in her local police, believing that next time the officer was in this situation, he may next time act differently.

8. Whilst this incident did not result in a face to face RJ conference, the fact that there was a two way dialogue between the parties, and that true learning and restorative reflections had taken place, gave a much better outcome than a simple letter of apology from West Midlands Police itself.

9. In more general terms, the hypothesized benefits of restorative work within the complaints arena are therefore three-fold: (a) greater satisfaction from both the process as well as outcomes for the complainants; (b) greater satisfaction from both the process as well as outcomes for the involving officer(s) in a way that facilitates internal procedural justice; and (c) reducing costs to the system through a swift and certain approach.


2)      Can you explain what/who an RJ practitioner is e.g. a trained police officer in RJ? What’s the difference between external/internal RJ practitioners?


10. Within West Midlands Police, we have a number of police officers who are RJ trained to a high standard.  Many of them are dedicated in the role and have become experts in their own right.  Some of them are trained to the highest level possible and as a multi-agency RJ Hub, we are holders of the RSQM Quality Mark awarded by the Restorative Justice Council.  In addition to this we also work in partnership with Remedi and The Pioneer Group who each have their own staff.  Due to contractual restrictions however we are only able to utilise the police officers for this purpose.


3) Can you briefly explain what a “conference” is and its purpose?

11. Restorative justice (RJ) is an approach that deals with the harm caused by crime and other conflicts. It involves bringing together victims and offenders to help them find answers, and to help the offender to fit back into society. This can also be equally applied to complainants and officers within Police Complaints.  Research shows many people find restorative justice helps them to move on with their lives after experiencing crime.   Within criminal cases, it is also shown to reduce the frequency of reoffending, or within complaints, has the potential to reduce further incidents of a similar nature however academic evidence on this is very limited.

12. A Restorative justice conference gives the victim a chance to ask the offender questions directly and have their say, or tell the offender how their behaviour has affected them. During a face to face conference, they can get immediate replies to their questions and see the officers regret or understanding of what they are telling them.  It also helps many people to move forward and recover from the impact of an incident. 

13. It also gives the offender a chance to:

             admit what they have done and the impact it has had

             make up for it in some way

             work to change their behaviour.

14. Very often a face to face conference isn’t required as trained facilitators can help a victim discuss what happened to them and help them get the answers they need to move forward and recover via other methods and an RJ practitioner will take into account all parties wishes about which restorative process is better for them.

15. Restorative work can be done face-to-face with the offender, with a facilitator present, or indirectly through Shuttle RJ.

16. Shuttle/Indirect RJ is when a victim/complainant does not wish to meet the offender however does need answers in order to move forward.  A trained RJ facilitator can facilitate the exchange of information via letters or voice/video recordings. 

17. Sometimes Shuttle RJ can be used as an introduction to a face to face meeting too.  Particularly in Serious and Complex casework, the harm is so severe that by starting off a dialogue in a non-direct way, this can help to prepare the victim for a face to face meeting later down the line.  Face to face is the preferred option as this gives the victim a greater sense of being a survivor instead of a victim and improved satisfaction as a result.

October 2020

Professional Standards & Restorative Justice Process