Longford prize for probation pioneer who makes offenders face victims

For nearly 20 years, Barbara Tudor has championed the often unfashionable cause of bringing offenders and their victims together. She believes that perpetrators are able to face up to their crimes by being confronted by the suffering they have caused, and that it helps victims move on and rebuild their lives.

The concept of "restorative justice" has often faced scepticism and been vulnerable to cost-cutting within the Probation Service. But it has now spread across much of the criminal justice system, notably to young offenders.

For her pioneering work, Mrs Tudor, the victim-offender development officer for National Probation West Midlands, will today be awarded the Longford prize.

Mrs Tudor, 56, said last night: "It's a simple philosophy, that the system should seek as a priority to repair the harm done by offending. At present, we seek to punish, but a restorative system focuses on where the harm is. This work is as relevant to the youngster who steals sweets from a shop as to somebody who causes death by reckless driving."

The judges said she had shown a constructive way to tackle crime, and represented the Probation Service at its best. One of her nominees, Marian Partington, whose sister Lucy was murdered by the serial killer Fred West, said: "When I met Barbara I was inspired by her modesty, her humour and her unfaltering faith in the restorative potential of her work. She continues to support me in my personal journey towards finding a relationship with Rosemary West which is unprejudiced and forgiving."

Four other people praised as "beacons for reform" in criminal justice were also commended by the judges: Shirl Marshall, who founded the charity Consequences, dedicated to the rehabilitation of serious criminals, mostly sex offenders; Margaret Carey and David Thunder, who set up the Inside Out Trust, giving prisoners worthwhile work to improve their job prospects on release; and Jean Wynne, a probation officer at the Leeds Victim and Offender Unit, whose "integrity and tireless commitment" to the cause of restorative justice also impressed the judges.

Last year's inaugural prize went to Audrey Edwards, of Colchester, Essex, whose son Christopher was murdered in prison by a cellmate who had a history of schizophrenia and violence. She mounted a successful legal campaign to prove the Government had failed in its duty of care to her son.

The award, named after the penal and social reformer Lord Longford, who died in 2001, and sponsored by The Independent, recognises "outstanding qualities of humanity, courage, persistence and originality".

The prize to Mrs Tudor will be presented at at Church House, Westminster, where the Bishop of Birmingham, The Rt Rev Dr John Sentamu, will give the Longford lecture tonight on Towards a Global Paradigm of Justice: Trust, Restoration and Reconciliation. The prize and lecture are administered by the Frank Longford Charitable Trust