The International Journal of Restorative Justice


Mitigating risk in restorative justice

Keywords risk, restorative justice, complex cases, facilitator
Authors Joanna Shapland, Jamie Buchan, Steve Kirkwood en Estelle Zinsstag
Author's information

Joanna Shapland
Joanna Shapland is the Edward Bramley Professor of Criminal Justice in the School of Law at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Jamie Buchan
Jamie Buchan is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University, UK.

Steve Kirkwood
Steve Kirkwood is Senior Lecturer in Social Work in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Estelle Zinsstag
Estelle Zinsstag is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University, UK and a Senior Research Associate at the Leuven Institute of Criminology, University of Leuven, Belgium. Corresponding author: Joanna Shapland at
  • Abstract

      Assessing and mitigating risks is essential for safe restorative justice practice, and yet very little has been written on this topic. In this study, we addressed this issue by interviewing 30 experienced restorative justice practitioners from eleven jurisdictions across Europe to explore how they assessed and mitigated risks. Our findings show that assessment and mitigation practices focused on risks relating to the restorative justice process proceeding safely, especially in relation to any feelings of safety for the potential participants, rather than, for example, risks of re-offending. Although practitioners reported some cases being ‘too risky’ for restorative justice, this was rare, and was usually due to the requirements for restorative justice being violated, such as the offender denying responsibility, the presence of threats or coercion, or mental ill health or substance abuse that prevented communication, rather than the type or severity of the offence. Rather than the standardised or actuarial risk assessment tools used in other criminal justice contexts, risk assessment and mitigation in restorative justice practice is being done through processes based on restorative justice practices and principles; that is, through discussion, negotiation, and mutual agreement.

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