Community Restorative Justice Ireland alongside Northern Ireland Alternatives, the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland, Probation Board for Northern Ireland, Victim Support Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Police Service Northern Ireland, worked together collaboratively with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shape the Adult Restorative Justice Strategy Consultation Document.
The DOJ are promoting the consultation and are openly inviting individuals to respond to the document before the closing date on Friday 11thSeptember 2020.
If you would like more information on this or would like to download an attachment of the document, it is available at: https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/doj-reducing-reoffending-directorate/adult-restorative-justice-strategy-ni/
Alternatively, for further details you can contact: 028 90 524745 or email: RJ.Strategy@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.uk
CRJI encourage members of the public and community organisations to provide their feedback on the DOJ’s proposals around the future implementation of restorative practices within the criminal justice system. It is important that people have their say as this will help shape the structure of restorative justice within the landscape of the justice setting. This is an exciting and promising time. There has been significant progress in the field of restorative justice within the CJS in Ireland, although this has primarily been in the youth sector. We have seen the benefits of this work, which has been evidenced by the diversionary and reintegrative outcomes, the cost effectiveness, victim satisfaction and so forth. As a result restorative practices is becoming more widely recognised as an effective means to support change and address offending behaviours. This document explores how restorative practices can be further embedded in the adult justice system, from early intervention right through to custody and reintegration. Recommending the wider availability and use of restorative practices to ensure a victim centred and offender focussed approach, which should improve outcomes for every individual affected by offending behaviour.
CRJI have been long standing advocates in the use of restorative practices and were delighted to take part in this consultation process, we urge others to share their opinion too. We welcome a cohesive and strategic approach that formally integrates restorative practice into the justice system, following in the footsteps of other countries such as New Zealand.
We are not alone in our wish to make restorative practices more widely available, following Sir John Gillen’s review and recommendations last year in ‘Report into the law and procedures in serious sexual offences in Northern Ireland’ he outlined in point 15 in his key recommendations that “Alternative mechanisms, including an entirely victim-led concept of restorative practice, should be considered both inside the criminal justice system and parallel to it” and advised in Chapter 17 point 243, that “the Department of Justice should give serious consideration to providing State funding for a scheme of accredited practitioners to operate a system of restorative justice at any stage in the criminal justice process dealing with serious sexual offences where the offender has admitted their guilt, the victim has requested the scheme be invoked and the perpetrator has agreed to be involved. The scheme must be victim led”.
The 2016 Fresh Start Report highlighted how accredited community based restorative justice schemes, currently operate within a limited funding environment and “could usefully be extended to become a more mainstream part of the justice system”, recognising that such restorative justice initiatives “are an important part of both building confidence in the justice system and delivering better outcomes for communities, including lower levels of recidivism” and should be continued and where feasible with their scope enhanced and broadened.
In addition, the DOJ’s ‘Making a difference to victims and witnesses of crime, Improving access to justice, services and support, ‘A five-year strategy’, outlined the need to increase “opportunities for victims to take part in restorative interventions”.
Justice Minister Naomi Long has previously commented “The use of restorative justice provides an opportunity to focus on repairing harm and minimising the impact of offending on victims as well as finding positive ways of dealing with children, young people and adults. In recent years this has increased significantly and there is now a real need for an adult restorative justice strategy. This will place victims front and centre and develop appropriate structures and opportunities to allow them to be involved, whether directly or indirectly, in the justice system and in decisions that affect them. The strategy would also engage and challenge offenders on their actions and help improve outcomes for all those affected by offending behaviour, whether victims, offenders, families or communities.”
In March of this year we were thrilled to launch the STARS Project, (Striving To Achieve a Restorative Society) in partnership with NIA. This project sets out to increase awareness and understanding of restorative justice / restorative practice and ensure the accessibility to restorative training, to individuals working within the local communities. We suggest that participants in this programme get involved in this public consultation and have your say to pave the way.