According to Can Criminals Say Sorry? (BBC3), Greater Manchester Police takes the national lead in this new(ish) process, which involves facilitating carefully structured face-to-face conversations between victim and perpetrators. Can it actually prevent reoffending? Or help victims come to terms with what's happened to them?
The person asking these questions was Brooke Kinsella, the EastEnders actress who became an anti-knife crime campaigner when her younger brother Ben Kinsella was murdered in 2008. Her experience allowed her to speak to people about the aftermath of similarly terrible crimes without that air of condescension that sometimes accompanies even the most well-meaning TV presenters. If you were expecting Can Criminals Say Sorry? to be the usual BBC3 documentary – a perfunctory overview of the subject matter, fronted by a has-been yoof celeb – then this was quietly impressive.
Kinsella met several people for whom restorative justice has been life-changing – the interview with the woman who forgave her rapist was particularly affecting – but her instinctive wariness remained in tact. She knows from experience that forgiveness isn't appropriate in all situations: "Sometimes you do need to hold onto that anger, just to get through the day."