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Force for Change? The Prospects for Applying Restorative Justice to Citizen Complaints Against the Police in England and Wales

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 42 Issue: 3 Dated: Summer 2002 Pages: 635-653
Eugene McLaughlin; Anja Johansen
Date Published
19 pages
This paper examines the prospects for applying restorative justice to citizen complaints against the police in England and Wales.
The increased influence of the victim support movement and the emergence of restorative justice practices have established the victim as central in debates on criminal justice policy in the United Kingdom; however, victims of police misconduct have remained largely unnoticed in these debates. The aggrieved citizen harmed by police misconduct is not typically assigned the status of "victim," but is rather viewed as a "complainant." Consequently, the police complaints system focuses on interrogating the "complainant's" motives with the intent of diminishing the culpability of the individual officer and the police agency. In many respects, the complaint system acts to discipline or punish those citizens who have the temerity to lodge a complaint against police officers. In March 2001, the debate about the reform of the police complaints system in England and Wales widened with the release of a report by the civilian Police Complaints Authority (PCA) entitled, "Restorative Justice and Police Complaints." The report argues that the constraints associated with the rule-bound, evidence-based, adversarial police complaints system makes it virtually impossible to address or resolve the issues featured in the majority of complaints against police. The PCA advocates the use of restorative justice principles in an effort to equalize the status of the parties in proceedings designed to resolve the complaint/conflict in an equitable manner. Such a procedure would build public trust and confidence in the complaints process and facilitate the repair of ruptured relationships between police officers and citizens, as well as between police forces and communities. 38 references