Process evaluation of the Neighbourhood Justice Panels
Published: March 2014
Fifteen areas in England and Wales were involved in a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) two year test of Neighbourhood Justice Panels (NJPs). NJPs are a form of restorative justice (RJ) conferencing. NJP meetings aim to bring victims and perpetrators together to agree what action should be taken to deal with low-level offending, using restorative and reparative approaches. The meetings are run by trained volunteers from the local community.
The MoJ commissioned us to carry out a qualitative process evaluation of the NJPs to understand set up, delivery and their perceived effects.
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You can download our report using the button to the right or read it on the MoJ website.
NJP set up
The NJP tests were not centrally funded and so areas had sought grant funding, donations from partner agencies or had redistributed existing funds. Where funding had been secured, this was largely used to employ a dedicated NJP coordinator, a role that was generally considered critical to NJP delivery.
The support of strategic and operational staff was crucial to the success of NJPs, as sufficient referrals were required from partners such as the police and local authority agencies. The types of cases referred included: neighbour disputes; damage to or theft of public property; anti-social behaviour; and street drinking. While out of scope for NJPs, the suitability of domestic violence and hate crime was also discussed.
Areas generally tried to create an informal atmosphere at the NJP meeting to put panel users at ease. However one area opted for a more formal setting to convey a sense of gravitas and to encourage panel users to take it seriously. The role of volunteers ranged from facilitation, to imposing resolutions rather than overseeing a process of discussion and agreement.
NJP staff and volunteers hoped that NJPs empowered communities to resolve their own issues. To this end, a key feature was having panel users meet in a controlled environment facilitated by local volunteers, where they listened to each others’ views before deciding on a resolution.
However, there were instances where panel users were dissatisfied with the outcome of their NJP, particularly if an inappropriate resolution had been agreed or where panel users did not engage fully with the process.
We used in-depth interviews and focus groups in six case study areas. We spoke to staff involved in NJP delivery (including NJP coordinators and local referral agencies like the police), volunteers, victims and perpetrators. We also observed NJP meetings.