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Free Content Using restorative justice approaches to police domestic violence and abuse

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The use of restorative justice in cases of domestic abuse is highly controversial. While little is known about how restorative approaches are used by the police, recent research shows they are used on a widespread basis to respond to domestic abuse throughout England and Wales (Westmarland et al, 2018). This study delves deeper, to look at 62 cases within one police force. Qualitative police data extracted from force systems were analysed to discover in what type of domestic abuse incidents restorative approaches are used, and what type of approaches are used. We argue that while the language of restorative justice was used, the spirit of restorative justice was often missing. In some cases, the police seem to be using the language of restorative justice to respond to cases they do not think would benefit from further criminal justice intervention (a ‘new NFA’ (No Further Action)). We conclude that further differentiation between different forms of domestic abuse and different forms of restorative approach is needed to enable a more informed conversation. Further, it is essential that the domestic abuse sector work more closely with restorative justice communities in order to more safely and more appropriately consider the challenges and opportunities that restorative approaches may offer.



Key messages

Rather than focus discussions broadly on ‘domestic abuse and restorative justice’, more nuanced conversations are needed on specific forms of domestic abuse and specific restorative approaches.


Domestic abuse and restorative justice practitioners need to work more closely together to move debates and practice forward in a safe manner.
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Keywords: domestic abuse; domestic violence; policing; restorative approaches; restorative justice

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2018

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  • The Journal of Gender-Based Violence (JGBV), is the first international journal based in Europe to show case the work of scholars across disciplinary and topic boundaries, and from a range of methodologies.

    The journal acknowledges both the breadth of gender-based violence (GBV) and its links to gendered inequalities. It aims to continue to document the voices and experiences of victims and survivors of GBV, to publish work regarding those who perpetrate GBV and of the varied and complex social structures, inequalities and gender norms through which GBV is produced and sustained. The journal recognises the intersection of gender with other identities and power relations, such as ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, faith, disability and economic status.

    JGBV will publish high quality papers that contribute to understanding of GBV, policy, and/or activism, on sexual violence, domestic abuse, ‘honour’-based violence, prostitution, trafficking and/or reproductive violence and abuse in a wide range of intimate, familial, community and societal contexts.

    The editors invite interest from scholars working across the social sciences and related fields including social policy, sociology, politics, criminology, law, social psychology, development and economics, as well as disciplines allied to medicine, health and wellbeing.

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