In this chapter I will describe, briefly, the emergence of an international movement within the criminal justice field commonly referred to as 'restorative justice'. I will cover the reasons why this movement has emerged, how it operates in practice, describe some of the underlying academic theories that have become associated with restorative justice, and the links that are beginning to be made with the emerging field of forgiveness therapy. I have personally been involved in the restorative justice field since 1993, when introduced to it by David Smith, who was my PhD supervisor at Lancaster University. At that time, as a criminology student, I was strongly drawn to restorative justice as it represented the only positive activity within the very bleak landscape of criminology and criminal justice policy. Of particular fascination to me was that restorative justice seemed to show that people, who had either committed sometimes quite terrible crimes or suffered them, were capable of meeting with one another to resolve what had happened. I was also drawn to the significant benefits that restorative practices appeared to have for crime victims.
This chapter is predominantly academic and descriptive; however, it also includes a small number of accounts from my own experience as a restorative justice practitioner. As will become clear, while forgiveness can be of significance to crime victims, I personally do not believe that it should be a central aim for restorative practice. However, I will consider the arguments, from within the forgiveness therapy field, that forgiveness is something that crime victims explicitly seek to achieve.