Campaigners for restorative justice suggest that we should deal with criminal behaviour by encouraging those responsible to repair the harm they have caused and that those who cause and suffer harm should be at the centre of deliberation and decision making. This paper explores ‘internal’ obstacles to achieving this goal: structural weaknesses in the case for restorative justice. The focus is on contradictions in the way the campaign for restorative justice has thought about the role of victims in restorative encounters. Involvement of victims is crucial for two quite different reasons: they have an essential role to play in the reform of offenders and they need to be involved to benefit from the healing effects of restorative encounters. Tensions between these two ways of thinking about the rationale for victim involvement have been insufficiently acknowledged. This hampers the campaign for restorative justice from achieving its loftier ambitions.