Saturday, February 5, 2011

An arguable case for restorative justice

Criminal law-making has been prolific during the last 14 years. In this time, over 50 new criminal justice bills have been laid before Parliament, resulting in 23 criminal justice acts which have created over 3,000 new criminal offences, with nearly half attracting a possible prison sentence. When we contrast this period with the 60 years between 1925 to 1985 when only six new criminal justice acts were passed, one gets an astounding illustration of Parliament’s appetite for regulation.

Law-making cannot mitigate the effects of crime on victims nor rehabilitate offending behaviour. Two fundamental questions for society are how to hold offenders to account while ensuring justice for their victims, and how criminal justice agencies can rehabilitate offenders to community social values and behaviour. The retributive paradigm which brought about the Michael Howard mantra ‘prison works’ in 1993, and which has been at the heart of Western thinking for over 900 years, has consistently failed to achieve its core objectives.

In his 2001 review of the criminal courts, Lord Justice Auld acknowledged the failure of our formal judicial process to repair the wrongs suffered by victims and our failure to rehabilitate offenders. Auld argued for a more ‘sensitive and sustained’ intervention approach with offenders in the early stages of their offending career. Citing the use of restorative justice used in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, he argued that strategic and operational investment in restorative justice would secure significant and widespread benefits to the community.

It would be wrong to suggest our current criminal justice system is driven solely by an ethos of punishment. The principle of restoration in criminal justice was given its first statutory toehold in the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act which introduced the concept of, and the authority to require, youth offenders to make reparations: ‘to a person or persons so specified; or to the community at large’ (s67).

In his 2001 review of sentencing, Making Punishments Work, Halliday identified three key purposes of sentencing: ‘punishment, crime reduction and reparation’, which he felt were inadequately covered in statute. This was remedied in s142 Criminal Justice Act 2003 which set out the clear purposes of sentencing: to punish offenders, reduce crime (including its reduction by deterrence), reform and rehabilitate offenders, protect the public, and facilitate the making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offences. In practice, however, victims’ voices remain silent and, although there is a statutory duty placed on sentencers to consider the making of reparations to victims of adult offenders as part of their sentencing decisions, this is mainly limited to the making of compensation orders.


Restorative justice (RJ) is where the victim and the offender are brought together directly or indirectly by a trained facilitator to deal with the consequences of an offence and its implications for future offending behaviour. RJ requires the offender to accept full and expressed responsibility for his/her offending and to make reparations to the victim and to make and to keep promises of good behaviour in the future.

The idea of victim-offender RJ first emerged in the UK in the 1980s through mediated settlements by probation officers. It was an ad-hoc affair to begin with, often motivated by religious conviction in the concept of restitution. Pioneering practitioners became self-appointed mediators/facilitators by stepping outside a criminal justice process which they viewed as punitive in its origins and destructive in its application and outcomes.

Between 2001-04 the Home Office funded an extensive study of RJ practice in London, Thames Valley, South Yorkshire and Northumberland which covered both adult and youth offending and relatively serious offences (524 cases). Of the three organizations (CONNECT, REMEDI and Justice Research Consortium (JRC)) involved in this research, only JRC worked within a randomized control environment. JRC managed to complete 342 cases (65% of all cases under trial) exclusively using the RJ conference model where the victim and offenders and their supporters were actively engaged in repairing the harm to the victim and designing a plan of reparation with promises by the offender to refrain from future offending.

Professor Joanna Shapland of the University of Sheffield independently evaluated the trials for the Home Office and published her key findings in four separate reports: the setting up of RJ programmes (2004); victim and offender willingness to participate in RJ (2006); the views of victims (2007) and finally the impact of RJ of reoffending (2008).

Of the victims who were invited to experience RJ conferencing, up to 77% of victims of adults offenders and up to 89% of victims of young offenders participated. From their responses, 85% of JRC victims were very/quite satisfied with their RJ conference experience and 80% of JRC offenders were also very/quite satisfied with their experience. Outcome agreements (where the victim/offender agree on the way forward) were achieved in 98% of JRC conferences.

Offenders who participated in the JRC trials committed 27% fewer offences (in terms of reconvictions) in the subsequent two years when compared with offenders who did not experience a JRC conference. Although RJ does not stop reoffending completely it does reduce the frequency of offending. There is no evidence suggesting different effects on reconvictions between types of offence and offenders. In short, it is not necessary to target RJ at specific offenders or offences.

When costing the three JRC trials in London, Thames Valley and Northumberland using a Home Office standard measure, Professor Shapland was able to show RJ represented significant value for money. The ratio of costs to savings through reductions in offending from the three JRC locations amounted to 1:8. Surprisingly, there has been no evaluation of the cost savings arising from RJ-induced reductions in victim post-traumatic stress disorders and the consequent reduction in costly dependency on health and social services resources compared with victims who have not experienced RJ.

In Northern Ireland, the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 enshrined the provision for RJ under the Youth Conference Service (YCS). The YCS is recognised through statute to provide and facilitate restorative justice conferences for young offenders (ages 10 to 18) and their victims. Since 2003 over 5,500 referrals have been made to the YCS which has consistently achieved over 60% victim participation, with 91% of victims reporting satisfaction with their experience. According to the 2009 Prison Reform Trust report Making Amends: ‘in 2006, the combined reoffending rate for youth conferencing was 37.7% ­­– this compared to 52.1% for those given community sentences and 70.7% for those given custodial sentences’.


A restorative justice conference between the victim, the offender and their supporters can be a deeply emotional and challenging experience for its participants; a process which is managed by a trained facilitator who must maintain control throughout yet empower the parties to make decisions about outcome agreements for themselves. Research suggests that the affected parties, particularly victims, are actively empowered by their experience during the restorative justice conference, whereas power is strategically and operationally removed from victims and offenders by the remoteness of conventional justice procedure and ritual.

When an offender and victim agree to participate in restorative justice, they embark upon a difficult psychological journey which actually personalises a shared criminal event from diametrically opposite experiences. Often for the first time, the victim becomes a real person to the offender, and the emotional pain suffered as a consequence of the offending is particularly and graphically brought home to the offender during a RJ conference.

Unlike conventional justice, the restorative justice conference requires the offender to explain personally and directly to the victim why they committed the offence. Critically, this explanation is given in front of their own family and supporters who often experience collective shame while encouraging them to become active supporters in the rehabilitative process.

Conventional justice practice is principally though not solely about punishing offenders for their offences against the state, rather than reforming offending behaviour or giving victims justice. In contrast, RJ is about offenders making amends directly to the victims or organisations they have harmed. When the state apparatus gives way to the less formal restorative process, the criminal justice landscape changes dramatically; fact, effect and outcome are examined and critically felt by the affected parties. They engage, exchange and interact during a RJ conference, whereas conventional justice ritual relies on advocates: exploring, examining and determining outcomes by adversarial joust.


Conventional justice ritual in actuality denies the voice of the victim and procedurally smoothens their pain. For justice to be seen and done, victim pain should be shrill, especially to the perpetrators of such harm. Only then will offenders be able to fully appreciate the value of, and respond to, the building blocks of rehabilitation.

RJ is not a panacea. However, its enormous value to victims, its significant contribution to reducing the frequency of offending and its obvious cost benefits to individuals and the community must be acknowledged by policy makers and practitioners. RJ should not be seen an alternative to conventional justice but as an integral part of the judicial process by becoming an available option in the adult court. Our courts must no longer be deaf to the pain of offending nor blind to its potential for healing and rehabilitation. As the old Angolan proverb reminds us: the one who throws the stone forgets; the one who is hit remembers forever.’

Published in The MAGISTRATE Magazine February 2011

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is global capitalism on the ropes?

Modern global capitalism, where companies become too big to be controled by their governments has spectacularly failed humanity and we need an urgent rethink if a financial catastrophe is not to turn into a global financial disaster!

Banks sold mortgages to millions who had no chance of servicing them and then they re-sold these mortgages as unaccountable derivative products to mask the inherent credit risk. Known as sub prime paper in the USA, it quickly became a financial game of musical chairs with no one knowing who was holding the dodgy debt until the mood music stopped in 2007. Billions of taxpayer £££s later, confidence in global capitalism is rightly be questioned.

Although our UK base rate is at an all-time low of 0.5 per cent, banks are charging “Dick Turpin” rates of up to, and over 20 per cent and often failing to lend to good businesses to protect their balance sheets.

UK Tax payer funded banks; Nat West, Lloyds and RBS and their subsidiary credit card companies are engaged in legalized theft while our government stands by, impotent of ideas and solutions.

Thank God for Vince Cable our Business Secretary; a man of principle and vision. We do indeed need a rethink of our mixed market model; smaller government and Town Hall burocracy with increased personal responsibility and a new ethos of accountability!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is the prison service accountable for its activities?


This essay will focus on the activities of the Prison Service, its community of disadvantage, the means by which its activities are monitored by Parliament and her ministers, and how performance is measured by operational management.

The issue of monitoring prison activities through performance audits and league tables is examined as one measure of individual prison performance. The remit and effectiveness of the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the local Independent Monitoring Boards is also considered. A review of five annual monitoring/inspection reports on the oldest operational prison in the country is undertaken to discover their impact on prison practices. Political accountability is also examined as a response to crisis and public inquiry.

The question of prisoner's rights is considered, as is the effectiveness of the Prison and [Probation] Ombudsman in settling individual complaints and the effectiveness of judicial review in protecting prisoner's human rights. Finally, this essay will consider if existing inspection, monitoring and complaints processes are sufficiently effective in making the Prison Service account for its activities.

Special case?

There are a total of 139 prisons in England and Wales, 11 are run by private companies currently holding around 81,000 prisoners, of which approximately 4,000 are female (Prison Service 2009a). Eighty per cent of prisoners have the writing skills, sixty five per cent the numeracy skills and fifty per cent the reading skills of an eleven year old. Prisoners are thirteen times more likely to have been unemployed compared to the general population, thirteen times more likely to have been in care as a child and ten times more likely to have regularly skipped school (Social Exclusion Unit 2002 in Newburn 2007:705).

Prison relations are complex and diverse, with competing cultures and sub-cultures pressing their claims for influence and power. Accounting for such a social system where the reluctant inhabitants are wholly dependent on the state for their welfare needs including their safety and security (Sparks et al 1996) is a complex landscape of expectation, rights and obligations. Lord Wilberforce said, “... a convicted prisoner, in spite of his imprisonment, retains all civil rights which are not taken away expressly or by necessary implication” (Wilberforce 1982), and later Lord Woolf raised the concept of prisoner's “legitimate expectation” of how the state should treat them, and as Sparks et al rightly asked, “when does expectation create a right to its fulfillment?” (Sparks et al 1996:305).

Wilberforce and Woolf offer aspirational rather than codified exemplars from which the Prison Service should be held to account. As Sparks et al also observed, prisons and “their particular and distinctive features are always special cases of action, structure, power and authority” (Sparks et al 1996:300).

Parliament is responsible for the provision of laws and regulations governing the conduct and management of prisons, and it is to Parliament that the Prison Service is ultimately accountable. It delegates executive authority for the Prison Service to the Justice Secretary and monitors its performance through published inquiries, reports and recommendations from the Justice Select Committee, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, local Independent Monitoring Boards and the Prison [and Probation] Ombudsman. In extremes the government, under Parliamentary pressure, will establish specific inquiries to investigate serious incidents.

Operational accountability

Each prison is managed by a prison governor who is responsible for its day to day operations. The governor reports to an area manager/director, who then reports to the Chief Operating Officer through to the prisons Director General [Phil Wheatley] and a Prison Board; appointed by the Justice Secretary; under the legal framework of the 1952 Prison Act. The Justice Secretary, previously the Home Secretary, has the “primary authority” for prisons and the published rules which regulate and manage prisons. A revised set of prison rules was established in 1999 by Statutory Instrument (Smit 2007:567).

The Prison Service Statement of Purpose is to look after prisoners “with humanity and help them lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release...” (Prison Service 2009-b). The prison service has established a mainly quantitative system of key performance indicators, targets and standards. The Performance Standards Manual which the Director General describes as “relevant”, “realistic” and a “vital part” in measuring performance (Wheatley 2004: Foreword), is aimed at “improving performance and compliance at all levels of the service”(Prison Service 2002-a). There are over 50 performance standards, measured against over 1200 key audit baselines. The results from self- audits and the biennial audits of the Standards Audit Unit are published in the quarterly performance rating table, which grades each prison between 4 [Excellent], and 1 [Poor] (Prison Service 2002-b).

Prisons with the lowest grade are seen as “failing” and may become subject to “special management measures” which can lead to a process of “market testing” and a prison could find itself being offered to the private sector (Coyle 2007: 509). This not so subtle sanction reveals an intriguing policy, for whatever the failures under public management, the authorities believe contracted-out prisons will perform more efficiently than public prisons. When the average quarterly tables for the period February 2004 to August 2008 are examined, there is no evidence that the private sector outperforms the public sector. In fact, an average of 27 (twenty one per cent) of the public prisons achieved an “exceptional” grade 4 rating, whereas only 2, (eighteen per cent) of the contracted out prisons achieved this standard (Prison Service 2002-b).

Performance tables may be appropriate to monitor the production and quality of ball bearings, where materials and conditions remain relatively constant. In a closed prison setting, simple quantitative performance data can be misleading and cannot reflect the unique dynamics between one prison and another. Such a “narrow focus on what can easily be measured” can only provide a limited glimpse of the prison estate, its manpower, and application of resources. It cannot reveal how prison is experienced by prisoners and how humanity is practised by officers (Liebling 2004:132), and nor can it adequately measure the application of discretion upon which so much matters in everyday prison life.

In 2002, the Prison Service introduced biennial surveys to measure prisoner perceptions of their prison experiences, based on Liebling's “Measuring the Quality of Prison Life” study between 2000-01 (Liebling 2004:132). Using “appreciative inquiry” techniques, Liebling invited staff and prisoners to reflect on their best rather than worst experiences. Liebling sought broad agreement between staff and prisoners on “what matters” in prison life. She discovered that “staff and prisoners produced the same set of dimensions, suggesting a moral consensus or shared vision of social order and how it might be achieved”. Her work provided a much needed interactional value model which describes and monitors that which previously appeared impossible to measure: “respect, humanity, support, relationships, trust, fairness...” which are not covered by quantitative mechanisms of operational accountability alone (Liebling 2004:146-152).

Political accountability

In April 1990, a disturbance broke out at Strangeways Prison in Manchester as a protest over conditions. Strangeways became the trigger for several other prison riots and after calls in Parliament for a public inquiry, Lord Woolf was appointed by the Home Secretary to investigate the disturbances. The 1991 Woolf Report was to bring about an end to slopping-out and a promise to rid the system of the “cancer” of overcrowding (Woolf 2008:270). It was seen as a road-map to restore decency and justice where conditions had become intolerable. Woolf sought to include an expectation of legitimacy in prisons by getting the “right balance” between security, control and justice (Woolf 2008:243), which at the time was in a “near terminal crisis of order and moral credibility” (Sparks 1994:17).

In 1992 Derek Lewis, who believed the riots of 1990 “represented the nadir” for the Prison Service, was the first non-career civil servant to be appointed Director General, and the first and only appointee personally selected by the Home Secretary (Lewis 1997:2). The optimistic ethos post Woolf swiftly changed on Michael Howard's appointment as Home Secretary in May 1993 and thus heralded the birth of a 'get tough on crime' era, when at the 1993 Conservative Party conference he proclaimed: “Prison Works”. His claim conflicted with the evidence and recommendations of the Woolf Report and the 1991 White Paper Custody, Care and Justice, which had secured political consensus as an appropriate response to Woolf, never made it into law (Lewis 1997:109 and 119).

Ministerial accountability came into sharp focus in January 1995, during a debate over the setting up of the Learmont Inquiry into the 1994 Parkhurst prison escapes. When asked, “Where does the buck stop?”, an attempt to clarify political responsibility for the prison escapes, Howard replied, “I am responsible to Parliament for policy. The director general is responsible for operational matters” (Howard 1995:col 40). This was an interesting reply, given Learmont's criticism of minsters for setting “conflicting objectives” for the Prison Service (Lewis 1997:192). This was later challenged by Jack Straw, Shadow Home Secretary, after the removal of the Parkhurst governor from operations and Howard's dismissal of Lewis following Learmont's criticism of local and national management. Straw said, “Section 1 of the Prisons Act 1952 makes no distinction between his (the Home Secretary's) responsibility for the policy of the Prison Service and the operation of that policy”(Lewis 1997 and Straw 1995:col 502).


Over the years, prison conditions have been at the heart of many disturbances, as evidenced by the Strangeways riots in 1990. The post of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons was established in 1981: “To inspect or to arrange the inspections of prisons in England and Wales and report on them to the Secretary of State, in particular on the treatment of prisoners and on conditions within prisons” (Ramsbotham 2005: 49). The Chief Inspector's remit is silent on “the frequency of its inspections or the content of its reports”. Inspection reports are addressed to the Justice Secretary and, by law, published (Ramsbotham 2005:55). It is through the publication of such reports that ministers can be called to account by Parliament. Ministers may suffer the embarrassment and political ignominy of defending a prison service once described as “a litany of failure and moral neglect”(Narey 2001, in Ramsbotham 2005:215).

Ramsbotham presided over 237 prison inspections (112 without warning), inspecting every prison at least once. He frequently complained to Ministers that his “minute budget was totally unequal to the task” and was overspent every year in undertaking what he described as “our inadequate programme”(Ramsbotham 2005:56). Chief Inspectors serve for five years and may have their contracts extended a further three years by mutual consent. Describing it as an “elaborate charade”, Ramsbotham's contract was not extended beyond the five years and he was unilaterally 'retired' by Jack Straw (then Home Secretary) in 2001 (Ramsbotham 2005:227-8). Ramsbotham paid the price, for exposing “apathy and indifference” among ministers and officials (Popplewell 2004).

Local Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) consisting of unpaid volunteers supported by an elected national council inspect prisons under a statutory remit to monitor “...the humane and just treatment of those held in prison and the range and adequacy of the programmes preparing them for release”. They must promptly inform the Secretary of State of any “concern” they might have, and prepare an annual report “on how well the prison has met the standards and requirements placed on it...”(IMB Northallerton 2007-8). Neither the IMB Secretariat nor the Briefing and Casework Unit of the National Offender Management Service keeps an audit of those concerns “promptly” reported, or the outcome of any action taken (Stephens 2009 and Moseley 2009).

To test the value of reports to ministers on improving prison conditions, a review of the IMB annual reports for Northallerton YOI between 2004-8 and the 2006 Chief Inspectors report was undertaken. Northallerton YOI, built in 1783, is the oldest operational prison in estate. Its IMB Chair vigorously condemned the practice of offenders having to eat their meals in cells with uncovered lavatories, especially when doubled up (IMB Northallerton 2004-8). In January 2006, the Chief Inspector of Prisons also complained about “unscreened” sanitation in cells and her “particular” concern about the practice of prisoners eating all their meals in them”(Owers 2006:23). Both the Chief Inspector and IMB recommended the provision of a separate dining area. In her formal reply, the minister dismissed the reports and defended the practice of prisoners eating their meals in cells with lavatories whilst doubling up, as an “operational necessity”(Eagle 2007).

Grievances and Judicial Review

The post of Prison [and Probation] Ombudsman was established in 1994 following a recommendation from Lord Woolf. As Woolf later observed, “At the time of Strangeways, justice stopped at the prison door. I regarded this as one of the worst aspects of the system” (Woolf 2008:267).

Under “Terms of Reference” from the Justice Secretary, the Ombudsman [Stephen Shaw] investigates individual prisoner grievances and, since 2004, all deaths in custody. Between 2007-08, he received 4,750 complaints, of which only 1,673 (thirty five per cent) were investigated to conclusion. The number of property complaints and appeals against disciplinary adjudications are now being “matched by complaints about regimes, allocation and categorization decisions and about risk assessment” which Shaw suggests derive from prisons operating “at more or less maximum capacity”(Prison Ombudsman 2007-08 Summary).

Prisoner's perceptions of fairness will be irreparably damaged if they feel their formal grievances are drowned in red tape and delay, and as Woolf observes, “An ineffective grievance procedure is probably as bad as no procedure at all”(Woolf 2008:267). Those who feel their complaint has been independently considered and had their views taken into consideration will have a sense of procedural justice, even if the final decision goes against them (Tyler 1990). Speaking of the complaints which are upheld, Shaw was ebullient and unequivocal, “It is extremely rare for the Prison Service not to accept or implement my recommendations” (Shaw 2009).

In 2008, Shaw failed to establish a separate parliamentary remit for the Prison [and Probation] Ombudsman and although independent from the Prison Service, Shaw continues to argue: “A reporting line to Parliament remains the best option...” (Prison Ombudsman 2007-08:4). As though to highlight the point, Shaw resigned as Chair of an Article 2, Human Rights compliant investigation on the treatment of a troubled young woman (SP) in a near-death incident following a history of self harm in custody between 2003-2005 and her subsequent transfer to Rampton Secure Hospital. Shaw accused the Prison Service of attempting “to dictate” the conduct of the inquiry and “to fetter” his independence (Shaw 2008 in EWHC 2009:13).

Bryan Payling, a former prison governor, was appointed in October 2008 to replace Shaw. The Howard League for Penal Reform (HL) applied on behalf of SP for judicial review on five grounds; the first and most important being “The investigation ordered... lacks independence” (Howard League in EWHC 2009:1). Interestingly, this was the only ground to succeed when Mr Justice Pitchford found, “that an investigation carried out by Mr Payling would fail to meet the requirement for independence demanded by Article 2” (Pitchford in EWHC 2009:111). Mr Payling must now step down from the inquiry.

In the past, the courts could intervene through judicial review to ensure Prison Service officials stayed within their “delegated powers” (Smit 2007:570). A prisoner may have been lawfully denied a right but its removal may have been unlawfully implemented. It was the process of removing the right which judicial review scrutinized, not the policy or decision to deny the right. However, since the enactment of the 1998 Human Rights Act, which requires public bodies to act in accordance with ECHR convention rights, the courts can now challenge primary legislation, and thereby “issue a notice of incompatibility” which minister must correct (Smit 2007:570).


Inspection and monitoring by the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Independent Monitoring Boards and investigations by the Prison [and Probation] Ombudsman do provide an effective means of exposing unacceptable Prison Service activities. However, the evidence suggests these bodies act with independent minds, and the Prison Ombudsman is effective in resolving a minority of prisoner complaints made each year, nonetheless these bodies have little if any influence on the strategic and structural failings of the Prison Service.

Public inquiries are an effective means of holding the Prison Service to account, but only after a crisis, and their effectiveness is diminished if they propose changes which the Government finds unpalatable. After the 1990 prison riots and the subsequent Woolf Inquiry there was political agreement on the way forward for the Prison Service. Sadly this evaporated when the public spotlight moved away. Despite many improvements, the “...crisis of order and moral credibility” which prevailed in April 1990 (Sparks 1994:17) became “a litany of failure and moral neglect” (Narey 2001, in Ramsbotham 2005:215) ten years after the hope and expectation ignited by the recommendations of the 1991 Woolf Report.

While the formal processes of inspection, monitoring and investigation go some way to call the Prison Service to account, and although the courts can and do intervene on both policy and practice, it is long after harm has been experienced and damage inflicted. The predominantly closed world of a prison community is, I submit, a “special case”(Sparks et al 1996:300). It requires the means to monitor its “moral performance” as well as its operational and financial outcomes.

The introduction of “Measuring the Quality of Prison Life” surveys in 2002 provides an innovative means of monitoring the complex interactions in prison life which are central to the rehabilitative process. Regrettably, these reports have limited circulation and are not readily open to public scrutiny through which the Prison Service could be made to fully account (Liebling 2004:132).

“To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice”
(Magna Carta 1215:40)


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Eagle, M. (2007) Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. In letter: (2007, July 200th) to HMP/YOI Northallerton Independent Monitoring Board. Available: (Accessed: 2009, January 14th).

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Lewis, D. (1997), Hidden Agendas:Politics,Law and Disorder. Hamish Hamilton London.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Liminal State!

It is easy to mourn the certainties of our past, which with the benefit of hindsight, appeared safer and more certain than the world we face today.

There is the impression we are less safe, and our children are at greater risk, but that's all it is; an impression. Memory always plays the trick of letting us recall the good things from our childhood and teens years - whilst masking, hiding and burying those aspects of past life which contradict our memories.

Take a look at Shakespeare's Winters Tale, Act III, scene III, when the character the shepherd wishes youths between 16 and 23 would sleep, to reawaken beyond the time of drink, violence, theft and getting wenches in trouble.

It was largely the same in the 16th century as it is today with one exception, the cloak of mystery and magic surrounding our establishment (royalty, politicians, judiciary, and in the 21st century; captains of industry) has been lifted to reveal a tawdry world of self interest and a blatant unwillingness to be held accountable.

The explosion of 24 hour, wall to wall media, has brought with it the uncompromising truth about our leaders, culture and society in all its raw and savage clarity. We are currently in a "liminal" state in our history, very much like the transition from feudal communities to industrial structures as we now move away from a mechanized to the electronic environment.

I commend the work of Emile Durkheim, so you too can see, what is happening today, is simply a variation on a long line of historical themes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Porcelain and Pottery restoration.

Polly Bacon, who trained under Roger Hawkins the ceramic restoration expert on the BBC's Antiques Restoration Roadshow, is a well respected porcelain and pottery restorer working from her small North Yorkshire studio. Trading under the name Bodytalk Restoration, she is a recommended restorer for several leading auction houses: Tennants of Leyburn; Watsons of Darlington and Boulton & Cooper Fine Arts of Malton.

Polly's work has been featured in Yorkshire Life Magazine (2005) and more recently, in Antiques Info Magazine. The following article was published by Antiques Info in November 2009:


Working from her small studio in the quaint Georgian market town of Richmond, set in the heart of Yorkshire Dales is Polly Bacon; an antique ceramics restorer.

Her studio, at the bottom of her garden is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave; little pots of pigment of every shade and colour, paint brushes of various lengths and sizes and delicate tools of every description adorn her worktops under the brightness of magnifying lights. Surrounded by shelves of vases, figurines, teapots, bowls, dishes and pots of every description she looks positively content in her artistic retreat.

Polly picked up a 19th century Staffordshire cow figure and smiled proudly as showed off the finished piece and explained, “I was asked by an antique dealer to make a new front leg which was obviously missing. After I finished the original work the dealer put it onto his stall at Newark Antique Fair. Two weeks later the dealer returned and told me that while he was showing it to a potential customer, it slipped from his hand and smashed into twenty three separate pieces. “Look at it now she says, “good as new, or should I say, good as old”.

Polly was formally trained in porcelain and pottery repair and restoration after many years restoring her own pottery as a collector. She trades under the name Bodytalk Restoration and has a web page; to exhibit some of her finished work.

Restoring ceramics requires a lot of patience, an eye for colour, form and structure. “Every repair is different” Polly says; “I can have two identical pieces with a hairline crack or a chip missing and the repair will be unique every time”. Looking around Polly’s small studio, there is a new teapot lid which has been made to match the original 19th century teapot. Cracks have been filled and made ready for painting; chips made good and an expensive hand painted Royal Worcester Dish, which has been completely restored and hand painted.

Polly points out, With every repair or restoration there are several stages which must be undertaken commencing with a through cleaning. The distinction between a repair and a restoration is an important one: repairs invariably include glueing the broken pieces together then filling the tiny gaps which are left behind with a compound and then rubbing it down before paint and glaze can be applied, a restoration often means a missing piece or limb must be hand made and replaced to make the item whole again.

Cleaning an item before work can commence is not always straight forward, as Polly explains “Cleaning can often reveal previous repairs or restoration work which the owner was blissfully unaware. I use anything from non abrasive biological cleaning solutions through to the most powerful chemicals on the trade market. Sometimes items can soak for several days to bring them back to life or in the case of delicate porcelains they may need a deft touch with a cotton bud which can then take up to several hours”.

Delicate porcelain can also spring out of line when broken, this may leave a shallow ridge between the two edges when glued back together. In such cases Polly says “I lay a thin layer of compound along the offending edge and then I feather it out about an inch or so before I rub it down until the raised ridge disappears. I always aim to make my repairs invisible to the naked eye”.

“A wide range of artistic skills are necessary to survive in this business”, Polly says. “You never know what job will come in next, it can be a rare 18th century teapot in need of a new lid or it can be a late 20th century Royal Doulton figurine which simply needs cleaning. Often customers can be surprised at what can be done to bring their ceramics back to life and I particularly like the challenge of a badly broken item to restore. I am saddened when I hear people say, that they have thrown a cherished or sentimental item away because they didn’t know anyone who could repair it”.

Polly has worked on many different commissions over the years and is happy to give free estimates and insurance claims estimates when requested. Her work has involved the frivolous to the fanciful and from the sentimental to the very expensive. She says “ I always try to complete a trade commission within 12 weeks and a retail customers work within 16 weeks.

Polly says, “I have found my own nirvana; where my work is my hobby and my passion, I am very lucky”. Polly Bacon is truly, 'an artist in residence'.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Restorative Justice

Graduated from the University of Cambridge on Saturday 15th May 2010 with a Master of Studies Degree in Applied Criminology, Penology and Management. My research thesis: Making Progress in Restorative Justice: a qualitative study seeks to address a gap in the literature on how facilitators make progress in the restorative justice process.

Making Progress in Restorative Justice: a qualitative study.


This is an exploratory study into how restorative justice (RJ) facilitators made progress before and during a RJ conference. It draws specifically on the experiences of Justice Research Consortium (JRC) facilitators who participated in one of three Home Office funded trials between 2001-4, and the only trial to employ a randomized control design based on the RJ conference model. Qualitative data was collected via focus group meetings and individual interviews. This study reveals how facilitators relied on a wide range of inter-personal characteristics, skills and techniques to secure and manage the participation of victims/offenders and their supporters in and throughout the RJ process. In particular, facilitators had to build rapport with the parties by a process of empathizing while remaining impartial and non-judgmental. From this data it is suggested that RJ in practice is about personalizing a criminal event which is most effective when it invokes an exchange of emotional responses between the parties which can then have a profound effect on the participants, resulting in changed perspectives and behaviours. It is therefore suggested, that the success of RJ conference encounters is heavily reliant upon the work of the facilitators. The data from this study have implications for their future recruitment, training and supervision.

Restorative Justice Consortium has published this thesis at:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CRIME: Make it Personal!

Since Labour's election victory in 1997 they have introduced over fifty new criminal justice bills in Parliament creating over 3,000 new criminal offences.

More offences and greater punitive measures have not reduced offending or given victims greater justice under Labour. The current state approach, which is a remote; mechanized process denies victims their voice and allows offenders to escape the impact of their crimes.

Contrast Labour's obsession with criminalizing behavour with the 60 years between 1925 to 1985 when only six new criminal justice acts were passed in Parliament and its easy to see making laws by itself cannot and does not change attitudes or behaviour.

We need a model which gives voice to victims and challenges offenders with the impact of what they have done to victims. Only then will crime become personal and the pain of offending really felt by all!