The Quaker Criminal Justice Group, Saturday Seminars


The sexual exploitation of young people has come to the fore of late yet we don’t seem to have a model of how to disrupt, prevent or deal with it or its the aftermath.  In the next Saturday Seminar on 4th July 2015 we will hear from Nicola who helps to run  ‘Just Whistle: Safe and Sound’ in Derby . They work with children and young people at risk of being sexually exploited  and  with parents, carers and professionals.  Our second speaker is Ruth, a paediatrician with special responsibility for the abuse of children:  she will concentrate on how the problem is being dealt with.


The Seminar will be held at the Quaker Meeting House, 188 Woodhouse Lane , Leeds LS2 9DX from 10.00am till 1.00pm.  There is no charge.  Further details are on the attached flyer.  It would be wise to book in advance.

Access to Justice

Do you know the difference between Learning Difficulties and Specific LearningDifficulties? The difference matters, it matters particularly in the context of theCriminal Justice System.

Melanie Jameson, a specialist in Dyslexia, explained to participants at the SaturdaySeminar that Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, ADHD and Asperger Syndrome areSpecific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) whereas, for example, Downs Syndrome, is ageneral Learning Difficulty (LD). Each of the conditions known as SpLDs has itsown particular symptoms however, as Melanie explained, they often overlap andindeed they can vary from person to person. Never-the-less what they have incommon is that they pose problems for sufferers when they come into contact witheither the Police, the Courts or the prisons. ...

Read the article on full here
Philomena O’Hare October 2014

Prisoners’ Voices

The seminar entitled ‘Prisoners’ Voices’ was extraordinary for many reasons, not least for the juxtaposition of the voice of a convicted murderer and the voice of the wife of another man convicted of murder. And in truth the audience was remarkable too for the breadth of experience of so many aspects of the Criminal Justice System.
Geoff had been a young, macho, skinhead when he was involved in a murder for which, of course, he received a life sentence. During the sixteen years he served in prisons he undertook a journey of reflection and questioning which gave him great insights and strengths, ultimately allowing him to become a Quaker, a Quaker Meeting House Warden, a speaker, married, and a fully participating member of society.... Read on

Notes from the Saturday Seminar of 15 March 2014 on

Aspects Reformative Justice

We were very fortunate to have Martin Wright, a former director of the Howard League for Prison Reform, Edwin Bircumshaw of West Yorkshire Probation and his colleague Karen Henshaw, a skilled mediator, to talk to us about aspects of restorative justice (RJ).

Ed likened RJ to good parenting, allowing a child to face his hurt, repair the damage and to learn how people have been affected by his actions. In RJ the offender learns about the consequences of his actions and takes responsibility for them while the victim learns why the offence has occurred and hopes, that because of going through the process, the offence will not be repeated.

The process experienced by the offender from arrest was outlined and the responsibilities of the probation team explained. The preparation by probation of the PSR (pre sentencing report) allows the offender’s side of the story to be put to the court.

Whether the sentence is served in the community or in prison the probation service develops the programme to be followed by the offender in the hope that the needs of the offender are met and there will be no further offending behavior. The offender will be supervised throughout this programme. The cost of this process is in the region of £60 billion.

Ed pointed out that until recently, the victim’s needs had not been a priority in the offender management process. The offence is against the state (Regina v…….) and the normal process is a question of risk management. Ed quoted figures from the Home Office which suggested that 33% of victims felt that the CJS had not met their needs, 75% of crimes are not reported and 58% of offenders re-offend. The process does not seem to work well.
RJ involves the victim; allowing their voice to be heard in impact statements and informs the offender of what happened in the life of the victim. Offenders are encouraged to engage with the victim, respond to the harm they have caused and find some way to recompense the victim. RJ results in between 15% and 27% reduction in offending and 85% victim satisfaction.

Karen told the moving story of one incident of RJ where the offender was sentenced for manslaughter. He met the mother of the person he killed after she wrote a letter asking to meet him. After many months or preparatory work they did meet, in the presence of Karen as facilitator. Towards the end of this encounter the offender apologized and his apology was accepted. He reached out his hand to the woman who shook it. The offender, having been terrified of the encounter, was elated by the meeting and astonished that the woman could be so forgiving. In a later debriefing he described her as “amazing” and she said she had achieved everything she wanted from the meeting and in addition now had “an overwhelming sense of peace”.

RJ in this context is a process which requires correct and sensitive timing and well trained facilitation. There were suggestions that volunteers might be able to take on this role.
Martin Wright is really the guru of RJ having been involved for many years in all aspects of the work. He has travelled widely, written and edited many books received many awards and continues as a volunteer mediator in his home area of London.

Martin took us through some of the historical miles stones of RJ citing in particular cases in Canada, Scandinavia and New Zealand. He compared the system of the criminal justice system (CJS) as it is now and RJ and clearly showed that the CJS was concerned with blame and punishment whereas RJ was about who was affected, and what needed to be done to put things right.

The nonsensical approach of retributive justice where “you harm people who harm other people to teach them that harming people is wrong” is we know not successful in preventing reoffending. Martin outlined how serious crimes of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and white collar crimes of the powerful were not treated in a way which addressed the needs of the victim nor causing any change in the behavior of the offender.

A restorative society could use restorative practices at different levels: decision making, conflict resolution, reparation of harm or restorativre justice in the cases of crime. But Martin stressed that it can’t be realized unless thee is a structure to deliver it, which is lacking at present. It could be done by existing personnel, at a little extra cost for training. Setting up a new service would cost more, though not so much if lay/volunteer facilitators were used. The ideal might be a network of local voluntary services under a national umbrella.

Martin feels that in the UK RJ is being allowed to happen rather than being made to happen.
A very lively plenary session followed and then networking continued for some time after the meeting had ended. The overheard conversations were themselves of great interest.

The second RJ seminar will be held on 17 May 2014 when Juliet Lyon the Director of the Prison Reform Trust and Fiona Macaulay of Bradford University and an expert on Brazilian penal reform will be speaking. We ask those who think they may be coming to register before - hand (with judyed.kessler@sky,com) to give us some idea of the numbers attending – we wouldn’t want to be short of good coffee and very superior biscuits !

Note from the Saturday Seminar of 17 May 2014 on Aspects of Restorative Justice Part2

Prisons Reformed? or What are those tents doing in the prison yard?

Click this link to read the report.

For further details contact Judy Kessler on