Griffin on the final report of the National Commission on Restorative Justice
Feb 02, 2010
from Human Rights in Ireland:
The National Commission on Restorative Justice published itsfinal report in December 2009. The Commission, announced in March 2007, was set up to examine the wider application of restorative justice within the criminal justice system. The Commission was established following the report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rightswhich recommended the development of a restorative justice programme for adult offenders in the Irish criminal justice system.
In its final report, the Commission recommends the national implementation of restorative justice for adult offenders. The Commission believes that such a programme “will make a positive contribution to the lives of all citizens, and particularly to those more closely connected to the offending behaviour.” Having conducted an extensive examination of the use of restorative justice in Ireland and in other jurisdictions, the report attempts to provide a workable framework for the development of restorative justice that is mindful of both economic and criminal justice realities.
The Commission did not adopt a definitive range of offences for which restorative justice could be applied. However, the report does state that restorative justice be targeted at offenders where a sentence of up to three years imprisonment is being considered by the court at sentencing. In such an instance, the court should be required to consider whether the application of restorative justice would be appropriate instead of a traditional sanction. The Commission also considers it appropriate to use restorative justice for cases where imprisonment is not being considered as a sanction for the offence. Targeting a broad range of offences, they argue, would enhance the prospect of diverting offenders away from custodial sanctions and from committing further offences. However, they recognise that the more serious the offence, the less likely it is that restorative justice would be an appropriate alternative.
The report outlines the process by which restorative justice could operate for adult offenders. They state that an individual should be referred by the court into a restorative process, that participation in the programme must be voluntary and that both victim and offender be willing to engage in the process. The report refers to three different models that could be used namely, victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing or a reparation panel. In relation to the desirable outcome of the process, the report refers to the need for reparation and restitution for the harm caused by the offender to the victim, some form of contribution by the offender to the community and the need to address offending behaviour and the underlying causes of such behaviour.