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Community / Restorative justice key to reducing re-offending whilst also supporting victims

To mark international restorative justice week this year, Shetland News announces partnership with Space2face restorative justice project

Clair Aldington of restorative justice charity Space2face. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND has always prided itself as a safe community with crime levels well below the national average.

Yet even in Shetland people occasionally – some would say regularly – harm each other to an extent that the judicial system has no choice but to get involved.

But court hardly ever brings offender and victim together to heal the damage done.

Professional help to enable both sides to move on in a positive way and, ideally, also reduce the risk of re-offending, is available right here thanks to Space2face, Shetland’s restorative justice service, which became an independent charity in 2016. It is run by Clair Aldington who is supported by a board of trustees including former clients.

As part of a newly formed partnership with the project, Shetland News will from now on provide a link as to how and where to get professional help below every court story we publish.

Explaining what restorative justice is and how it works, Aldington said the process is proven to not only reduce re-offending rates but also to reduce post-traumatic stress in victims. In these ways, it can help provide closure and redress for victims and communities.

It ultimately focuses on the person(s) who did harm and the person(s) or community that were harmed in an attempt to restore justice by empowering the people primarily involved in the incident to enter into a dialogue about it.

This is very different from the western justice system and court process we are most familiar with which keeps the offender and victim apart. Restorative justice involves the offender taking responsibility for their actions and the victim being willing to enter into a conversation about what happened and the consequences of that for them.

It also recognises that the perpetrator has often also been a victim of harm.

“Restorative justice is an opportunity for the person responsible – the offender – to be able to explain what happened and to understand the consequences of their actions in order to learn from them to try and ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” she said.

“What restorative justice also does is a parallel process with the person who has been harmed – the victim.

“Ultimately, what we do is prepare both sides in a parallel process to bring them together to have a conversation. This is quite a unique opportunity in trying to make things better for both.”

“We are delighted that Shetland News is taking the profound and bold step of recognising the human stories and pain behind the court reports in entering into a partnership with Space2face in this way”, Aldington said.

Aldington has over 20 years of experience working in the field, is accredited as a practitioner through the Restorative Justice Council and has currently completed a PhD on the very subject.

The Scottish Government published an action plan in 2019 with the aim to have restorative justice services widely available across Scotland by 2023. Meanwhile, however, Space2face is receiving some government funding via the Shetland Community Justice Partnership.

So how does it work? Participation is voluntary and with consents from all participants. Referrals are primarily received from Justice Social Work, Children and Families Social Work Department, and the Children’s Reporter, but individuals do also refer themselves.

Aldington said the three-stage process always follows the same pattern; looking at what happened, assessing and learning about the consequences, and thirdly what everybody needs in order to draw a line and move on.

“It is about empowering people to take responsibility for their actions,” she said. “Accepting responsibility is key for us to work with clients. They do not necessarily have to show remorse, but at least take responsibility.”

Space2face is unique in restorative justice projects in that it uses the arts and creative approaches as well as sometimes creating gifts for the other person involved.

“We sometimes work with people to create handmade gifts to be given to the other person involved, but only with consents from both receiver and giver. It can be something very profound: the making process of a gift can be a way to enable people to find the words to express what they need to say, and the act of giving it away can be a way of opening up communication that may otherwise be very difficult”, Aldington said.

Editor of Shetland News Hans J Marter said everybody in the news team was delighted to support such a worthwhile initiative.

“While restorative justice is nothing new for most European countries, Scotland seems to be lagging behind. Research shows that restorative justice can reduce re-offending whilst also reducing stress symptoms in people harmed (victims) through crime,” he said.


There are a number of ways of getting in touch with Clair; the easiest is perhaps via the charity’s new website at www.space2face.org

The charity can also be contacted via e-mail info@space2face.org or mobile 07564 832467. The project is also currently fundraising to secure office space in Shetland’s brand-new creativity and wellness centre, The Mission.