NEW restorative justice services will put “victims at the heart of the justice system”, a Scottish minister has said as he welcomes its launch.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said the launch of two new hubs will allow those who have experienced harm to voice the impact a crime has had on them to the perpetrator.

Restorative justice supports communication between someone who has been harmed and the person who has caused that harm.

It is voluntary and relies on consent from both parties and can occur face to face or virtually.

And the person who has committed the crime must acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions in order for the restorative justice process to begin.

Now a new national hub within Community Justice Scotland has been launched to play a strategic oversight role.

It will also manage a pilot project in Edinburgh, Lothian and the Borders, before the service is rolled out across Scotland.

A Thriving Survivors hub is also being set up to provide a safe, trauma-informed service to victims of sexual harm.

Brown, MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, said: “Providing a national restorative justice service is consistent with our clear commitment to putting victims at the heart of the justice system.

“It is absolutely vital that victims are given a voice via person-centred services where their needs and values are respected and supported as part of their journey towards healing and recovery.

“It is crucial the service provided is safe, consistent, and of a high standard nationally and fundamentally it is vital to remember this is a voluntary service and must have the needs of the person who has been harmed central to the process.

“It is not a substitute or alternative to the criminal justice system but a means of putting victims first in a way that I am sure will be of benefit to a number of people for very many years to come.”

Gemma Fraser, head of restorative justice at Community Justice Scotland, said: “It is important that people who experience harm caused by crime are empowered with the ability to voice the deeply personal impact of that, and given a choice in how they may wish to experience meaningful justice in Scotland.

“Funding restorative justice is essential to ensure safe and secure approaches to this, to prevent further harm, and enable recovery with supported access to services which address additional needs.”

Ashley Scotland, chief executive of Thriving Survivors, said research has showed a demand for Scottish sexual abuse survivors to experience restorative justice.

She added: “It’s very much an individual decision, but it can empower survivors of harm to take back power, choice and control in their lives and can help their recovery.”