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Letter: Justice for victims and offenders

Sir: Your report on the new "boot camp" for young offenders announced by the Government ("First `boot camp' to kick off without hardline regime", 19 September) shows the mixed motives that underlie the idea of an austere regime for specially selected low-risk offenders who can opt out if they wish and which combines a long, tightly structured day with a focus on education and self-development.

What is largely missing from this mixture of deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation is restorative justice. The victims of crime have no place in this system. Although the regime includes an hour working for charity, this is a depersonalised form of restoration.

Other countries, most notably New Zealand, have developed systems of family group conferences for the type of young offender who, in England, will be selected from the Thorn Cross unit. The offender and his/her family and friends meet their victims, with a state mediator, and together work out what the offender shall do to right the wrong and what help is needed to reinstate the offender into society. Of course this does not always work; but it appears at least as likely to succeed as any other approach, and it is a more humane and ethically defensible way to deal with fellow citizens.

Yours faithfully,

Phyllida Parsloe

Professor of Social Work

University of Bristol


19 September