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Ireland Exploring Further Restorative Justice Implementation

The National Commission on Restorative Justice (Commission) in Ireland has released an interim report on its work to develop a policy framework for expanding the use of restorative justice throughout the country. The report suggests possible pilot projects and describes issues still to be studied.

In January 2007, the Joint Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence, and Women’s Rights issued a report with twelve recommendations for strengthening restorative justice in Ireland. Among these was that a cross-sectoral working group be created to develop a national strategy based on international best practices. The Commission was formed in March and began its work on a full time basis in August.

The Commission is made up of representatives from the Gardai (National Police), the Court Service, the Probation Service, the Principal Prosecutor Solicitor and two lay members. Its mandate is to “consider the application of the concept of restorative justice with regard to persons brought before the courts on criminal charges and to make recommendations as to its potential wider  application in this jurisdiction including the possible application in the context of community courts …(p5)”

The Commission received 25 written statements and conducted public hearings. In addition, it also undertook a study of restorative justice practices around the world and met with restorative justice experts from New Zealand, the USA, and Canada as these visited Ireland.

Within Ireland, several initiatives already use or could readily incorporate restorative practices. These include:

  • The Garda Diversion Programme for Juveniles
  • Court-referred family conferences
  • The Garda Adult Cautioning Scheme (currently not informed by restorative practice)
  • Nenagh Community Reparation Project
  • Restorative Justice Services of Tallaght.

In terms of developing broader implementation of restorative justice, the Commission made the following interim recommendations:

  • Create a system to track cases from the time the complaint is lodged through the completion of any sanction given.  This will facilitate the study of policy needs.
  • Inclused a “basis for evaluation both in terms of data collection and control group comparators” in existing and new restorative justice initiatives.
  • Consider including a restorative dimension to the Adult Cautioning Scheme currently operated by the Garda.
  • Consult with the An Garda Síochána and the Probation Service to include referral of adult offenders in the restorative justice programmes in Nenagh and Tallaght.
  • Implement a pilot restorative caution process in an inner city setting to learn more about the use of this sanction with adult offenders.
  • Consider an in-prison, voluntary restorative justice programme bringing together victims with their offenders prior to the offenders' release from prison.

The National Commission on Restorative Justice will submit its final report by the end of 2008.

The interim report is available online.

July 2008

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