As part of our Talking Justice blog series, Gael Cochrane, Learning Development and Innovation Lead at Community Justice Scotland, explains how she’ll be using her new role as a specialist trainer in restorative justice to make a difference.

Restorative justice is a way for people harmed and those who caused harm to come together in a safe environment to discuss what happened. Both have to agree to take part, and in this structured setting the person harmed is able to explain the impact of the incident on their life to the person who caused the harm. They will use this time to look for an agreed way forward.

As a restorative justice practitioner, my role is to facilitate dialogue between the two parties, not to take over.

The results we’ve seen from restorative justice practice are commonly positive yet there is a stigma of fear and mistrust that surrounds it, particularly in areas of serious harm.

We want to change that by sharing evidence-based insights and growing awareness of restorative practice.

I received formalised training from Strathclyde University which taught me the foundation skills necessary to facilitate a restorative justice meeting. This intensive course was taught by internationally-renowned Restorative Practices trainer, Tim Chapman, who I am now co-delivering with for the European Forum for Restorative Justice. We will be delivering the ‘Introduction to Restorative Responses to Serious Harm’ course as part of their Winter Academy.

We will be delivering eight online modules over four days covering topics including: Balancing benefits with risks; power imbalances; trauma informed restorative practice; children as victims and hate crime. There is considerable theory around restorative justice but this needs to be put into practice.

Ideally, people working in justice could aid these restorative conversations in future, making them a more accessible option.

I am hugely looking forward to teaming up with Tim to deliver this course as I think that our individual expertise will complement one another to ensure lively and informative sessions.

Ultimately our goal is to empower people to choose to have these restorative conversations and to destigmatise the process of restorative justice. This can help bring barriers down, allowing for better access to responsible and successful restorative practice.

Our Talking Justice blog series brings together reflections from across our society. We are committed to changing the conversation about justice, increasing understanding and support for what will make Scotland better for all of us. To that end, we have have created a resource that maps out the Scottish justice system. This has been developed into an interactive digital tool: Navigating Scotland’s Justice System.

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