Professor Anthony Beech was invited to speak as one of the small number of scientific experts at the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, in France, on 25-27th September 2013, about alternatives to imprisonment.
The Council of Europe consists of 47 countries, (ranging from Albania to the Ukraine and including the UK, totalling 820 million citizens) and hence such meetings have an important influence on policy on wider European issues. Professor Beech, who is widely regarded in the area worldwide, gave his presentation which covered: current approaches to treatment in the UK, and elsewhere; therapies that could work equally well in the community and prison; and new directions in therapy including a more brain-based approach. Here, Professor Beech stresses the importance of brain-based treatment (to kick the brain into a more optimal level of functioning), given the high level of pre-, peri-, and postnatal risk factors (such as smoking in pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, poor diet, traumatic brain injury) disproportionately found in a number of offenders. Professor Beech also talked about other initiatives, currently piloted in the UK, around restorative justice. Restorative Justice (RJ) views crime primarily as ‘injury’, rather law breaking; with the purpose of justice including ‘healing’ on the part of the victim. Hence, RJ gives victims the chance to tell offenders the real impact of their crime, to get answers to their questions and to receive an apology. This approach also gives offenders the chance to understand the real impact of what they have done, and to do something to repair the harm caused.