The feasibility of undertaking restorative approaches in a serious and organised crime context

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Sheffield

In Collaboration With

Durham Constabulary

Principal Researcher

Nikki D'Souza

Level of Research


Project Start Date

September 2016

Research Context

​Restorative interventions have been increasingly utilised for some serious and sensitive cases such as domestic abuse and hate crime. It does not appear to have been widely utilised (if at all) with serious and organised crime and the aim of this research is to potentially “open the door” to this area of policing business. This is a gap in current criminal justice knowledge and practice and if such an approach were to be more widely deployed, would contribute to the multi-agency efforts to encourage offenders to desist from committing crimes and becoming integral accepted members of their community while providing a sense of closure for victims.

There is no “Approved Professional Practice” (APP) for this area of the business and there is a lack of training/knowledge around the use of restorative practices with those who are members of Organised Crime Groups (OCGs). The aim of this PhD is to undertake exploratory work identifying key stakeholders’ perceptions of utilising this approach by interviewing offenders, victims and experts working in the restorative justice field and to undertake Restorative Approaches between offenders and victims where appropriate and possible.

This builds on former work (unpublished) undertaken as part of the N8 Policing Research Partnership, a collaboration between 13 northern police forces and 8 universities, where incarcerated offenders, victims and experts’ views were gained via audiotaped semi-structured interviews, e-surveys and telephone calls. The purpose of undertaking case studies would be to identify the specific practicalities that apply if this approach was more widely adopted, identify what works and what does not and formulate some good practice guidance around the identification of OCGs and victims with whom this approach is likely to work, the process issues and the likely outcomes of adopting an innovative approach.

This research is supported by the College of Policing Bursary Scheme

Research Methodology

A mixed methods approach will be utilised:

  1. To undertake an extensive literature review.
  2. To undertake semi-structured recorded interviews with incarcerated organised crime group members at local NE prisons examining their views and perceptions.
  3. To undertake semi-structure recorded interviews with OCG offenders living in the community who have come to police attention due to their membership of an OCG/OCGs.
  4. To undertake semi-structured recorded interviews with victims of OCG activities; this is to extend to corporate and proxy victims.
  5. To consult experts at local, regional and national level following the undertaking of all interviews with offenders and victims.  The experts will be drawn from police, Youth Offending Service (YOS), probation, PCVCs (Police Crime and Victims' Commissioner) staff, academics, the Home Office, Ministry of Justice (MoJ), local authorities and other RJ (RJ) providers.
  6. As part of a ground-breaking venture to test the feasibility of such approaches, I want to undertake a small number of case studies with OCG members where appropriate, with a view to identifying the key issues when considering deploying this approach with organised crime group members.  The impact (and evaluation) of any restorative conversations will also be included as part of this study.  Any OCG offenders and victims who request a restorative approach will be assessed by qualified RJ practitioners and all relevant safeguards put in place in line with current RJ good practice guidelines for serious and complex crimes.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

March 2020
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