Committee Reports::Report - Report on Restorative Justice::03 January, 2007::Report

Tithe an Oireachtais

An Comhchoiste um Dhlí agus Ceart, Comhionannas,

Cosaint & Cearta na mBan

Tuarascáil ar an gCeartas Aisig

Eanáir 2007

Houses of the Oireachtas

Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights

Report on Restorative Justice

January 2007

Tithe an Oireachtais

An Comhchoiste um Dhlí agus Ceart, Comhionannas,

Cosaint & Cearta na mBan

Tuarascáil ar an gCeartas Aisig

Eanáir 2007

Houses of the Oireachtas

Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights

Report on Restorative Justice

January 2007

Table of Contents

Chairperson’s Preface

Rapporteur’s Foreword


Report on the Potential Benefits of Restorative Justice Methods in Ireland


Restorative Justice - Redefining Crime



Some Common Methodologies in Restorative Justice




Victim-Offender Mediation








Sentencing Circles




Typical Sanctions



Potential Advantages of the Restorative Justice Approach



Common Criticisms



International Examples




Recidivism Rates



Restorative Justice in Ireland




Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme




Court-Referred Family Conferences for Juvenile Offenders




Restorative Justice Services, Tallaght




Nenagh Community Reparation Project



Summary of International and Domestic Evidence



Recommendations for the Expansion of Restorative Justice Practices in Ireland


Recommendations of the Joint Committee




Appendix 1: Orders of Reference of the Joint Committee.


Appendix 2: Details of Hearings.


Appendix 3: Persons and Bodies Lodging Submissions


Chairman’s Preface.

The Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights chaired by Sean Ardagh T.D., decided recently to conduct a review of the potential benefits of Restorative Justice methods in Ireland.

The review arose partly from the Committee’s ongoing work in reviewing criminal justice policies in Ireland. As part of this work, the Committee carried out a very detailed consideration of the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 which was enacted in 2006.

Having appointed Jim O’Keeffe T.D. as Rapporteur to the Joint Committee on the matter, the Joint Committee had a meeting in October 2006 with prominent figures in the Irish criminal justice system.

Having considered the draft report submitted, the Joint Committee has now completed its Report. In the report the existing Restorative Justice provisions are examined and recommendations are made on how these can be developed. In particular the Committee recommends that legislation is needed to put Restorative Justice for adults on a statutory footing. In addition, increased support for Restorative Justice should be supported by the State as an investment in more progressive methods of dealing with the effects of crime. The Report reflects the views expressed to the Committee during its deliberations and the unanimous recommendations of the Committee.

We commend this Report to the Houses of the Oireachtas.


Sean Ardagh, T.D.,

Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights.

3rd January 2007.

Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights

List of Members:

Sean Ardagh

Maire Hoctor

Sean O’Fearghail

Charlie O’Connor

Denis O’Donovan

Peter Power


(Fianna Fáil Deputies)

Jim O’Keeffe

Gerard Murphy

Brendan Howlin

Kathleen Lynch

Finian McGrath

(Fine Gael Deputies)

(Labour Party Deputies)



Tony Kett

Jim Walsh

Maurice Cummins

Joanna Tuffy





Rapporteur’s Foreword

Restorative Justice - a new approach to criminal justice in Ireland

There is a growing awareness in Ireland that the traditional approaches to criminal justice are limited in the extent to which they can effectively reduce crime rates, rehabilitate offenders and, importantly, redress the harm caused to the victims of crime. The latest figures from the UCD Institute of Criminology1 indicate that a large proportion of offenders who receive a custodial sentence will re-offend in the future. Furthermore, the consequences of a criminal record for education, employment and travel opportunities can be disproportionate to the offence and this is of particular concern with respect to first-time and juvenile offenders where the primary aim should be to ensure re-integration to the community and future good behaviour. As public opinion surveys have shown, these issues are a clear concern for many victims and members of the public who are dissatisfied with current practices in criminal justice. As a result, it is essential that we in Ireland should be open to new ideas and new approaches to dealing with crime.

This report is concerned with a new movement in criminology known as Restorative Justice. This movement has emerged from a recognition that typically retributive and adversarial court practices, that emphasise offences against the state, tend to exclude victims from the process. As a result, the potentially significant psychological, emotional and relational harm caused by the offence is rarely addressed. Equally, the offender is excluded from the process and is therefore not required to face up and understand the full impact of their behaviour or to make amends directly to the people they have harmed. Restorative Justice refocuses the process of criminal justice on the harm caused to victims and brings together those directly affected by a crime and empowers them to decide on the most appropriate resolution. It is important to stress that Restorative Justice is not intended as an alternative to existing practices. Restorative Justice is not a panacea and is not appropriate for all offenders or for all victims. However, as this report will demonstrate, there is gathering international and domestic evidence to suggest that, when a Restorative Justice approach is adopted as part of a broader response to crime, victims and the general public are typically more satisfied with the process and outcome. There is convincing evidence to indicate that Restorative Justice is far from being a soft option in responding to crime but it does permit certain offenders (young people and first-time offenders in particular) to face up to their offence in a very concrete and challenging manner without the necessity for criminal convictions or custodial sentences.

Restorative Justice has already been adopted as a standard policy response to crime in many European countries and across the world. In Ireland, significant steps have already been taken to develop restorative options for juvenile offenders and a number of pilot projects that target adult offenders have begun to emerge. I have been very impressed with the evidence emerging from international projects and particularly from the work conducted here in Ireland. For this reason I wish to enthusiastically endorse the careful development of Restorative Justice as a positive step in the development of criminal justice.

The purpose of this report is to outline key Restorative Justice concepts and methodologies and to explore their strengths and weaknesses. In addition, a number of international and domestic examples will be discussed and their impact will be assessed. Finally, the Report makes recommendations of good practice for the establishment of a comprehensive system of Restorative Justice in Ireland. The Joint Committee held a meeting on 18 October 2006 to receive oral submissions from many of the leading players in criminal justice. There was an overwhelming consensus during this hearing that Restorative Justice should be developed in Ireland. The Report strongly reflects the views expressed to the Committee during its deliberations.

Invaluable assistance in the preparation of the Report was provided by Mr Redmond O Connell who acted as my research assistant. Mr. Kieran O’Dwyer, who has carried a lot of research in this area, was also very helpful. In addition, Mr Ray Treacy and his staff in the Committee Secretariat worked most courteously to facilitate the Committee in its work.

Finally, I want to thank my colleagues on the Committee for their contributions and assistance in preparing this important Report.

Jim O’Keeffe T.D.

Rapporteur for the Joint Committee

Report of the Rapporteur to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the potential benefits of Restorative Justice Methods in Ireland

A) Restorative Justice - Redefining Crime

As part of its ongoing work in reviewing policies in criminal justice, the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights conducted a review of Restorative Justice (hereinafter referred to as “RJ”). In light of recent developments in Ireland and throughout Europe, the Committee examined the potential value of adopting RJ as a national policy response to crime.

As appointed rapporteur, Deputy Jim O’Keeffe set out his role as follows:

To explain my position, I have been asked to draw up a report for the committee. I do that on the basis of having great admiration for the work the various projects have been doing. I am examining the possibility of supporting any development plans they have but also developing further in other areas, possibly leading to some form of national roll-out for a restorative justice approach generally. My questions are designed to determine the areas where the projects have met difficulties and that may be of guidance to us in recommendations the committee will make on further development and a national roll-out.”

A day of oral hearings was held on the 18th of October 2006 at which 6 invited parties addressed the Joint Committee. At the outset, the Chairman of the Joint Committee, Deputy Sean Ardagh welcomed the groups and stated:

The committee is particularly interested in the views of contributors on the current use of restorative justice measures as a public policy response to crime. We are also interested in future policy options which could be considered.”

Oral submissions were received from prominent figures in the Irish criminal justice system reflecting the enthusiasm and support for the implementation and expansion of RJ practices in Ireland2. These included the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, an Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Siochana, the Director and Deputy Director of the Probation Service and representatives of the Nenagh Community Reparation Project and Restorative Justice Services Tallaght.

The purpose of this report is to outline key RJ concepts and methodologies and to explore their strengths and weaknesses. In addition, a number of international and domestic examples of RJ programmes will be provided and their impact will be assessed. Finally this report will put forward a series of recommendations based on careful consideration of available research and each of the written and oral submissions received by the Joint Committee.

In recent years, there has been an evolving debate regarding the most effective and appropriate methods of addressing criminal behaviour in Ireland. The great majority of countries, including Ireland, have traditionally operated criminal justice systems that can be described as ‘retributive’ in which penalties are handed down by the state as a deterrent. With the rise of the modern state’s assumption of the investigative, prosecutorial and enforcement functions, crime has been treated primarily as a disruption of the state’s security. Consequently, less emphasis was given to the emotional and social hardships to victims in criminal courts. There has been growing recognition that by marginalising offenders and victims, traditional retributive methods do not always advance the interests of the offender, the victim or society in the manner intended.

A considerable amount of research has shown that victim satisfaction rates with a retributive justice system remain low, regardless of the penalty handed down by the court3. Victims are typically kept at the margins of court proceedings, with little direct involvement other than providing witness testimony. In addition, the language and format used tends to be unfamiliar to most victims and the actual impact that an offence has on the victim is not always explored4. As a result, victims tend to feel excluded from the legal process. The reality is that victims of criminal behaviour, including relatively minor offences, can suffer severe psychological, relational and behavioural consequences that are not addressed by simply punishing the offender. Research in Ireland has highlighted the dissatisfaction of victims with their lack of involvement in the courts and the criminal justice system in general. The Irish Garda Public Attitudes Survey5 found that 46% of the respondents interviewed felt that victims in Ireland: “get a raw deal from the criminal justice system”. It has become clear that while the focus has tended to be on the state’s response to the actions of offenders more attention must be given to finding the fairest way to deliver justice to victims.

With respect to offenders, a major criticism of traditional retributive methods has been that offenders are rarely required to deal directly with the full consequences of their behaviour. Court proceedings are typically dominated by legal representatives and the offender is not given the opportunity to understand the impact of their behaviour on the victim and/or community. In addition, the traditional retributive method of criminal justice can have consequences that are disproportionate to the offence. This is particularly evident for juvenile or first-time offenders where a criminal record can have serious negative implications for future educational, vocational and travel opportunities. There is increasing awareness that incarceration is not an effective means of reducing recidivism in Ireland. According to the latest figures from the UCD Institute of Criminology, 25% of the prison population will re-offend within one year and approximately 50% will re-offend within 4 years6. As a result, there is a growing need for new and innovative methods that will improve the Irish criminal justice system’s ability to administer justice to victims, offenders and communities in as fair and effective a manner as possible.

RJ is a new movement in criminology and victimology which embraces many different activities unified by the same core underlying aim of promoting restitution and redress as eminent principles of criminal justice in general. At the centre of the RJ movement is a wish to redefine crime as an offence against the victim and/or community as opposed to an offence against the state. In his submission to the Joint Committee, the Director of Restorative Justice Services in Tallaght, Mr. Peter Keeley stated that RJ is based on:

“An acknowledgment that crime hurts victims and their families; that crime affects the offender, their family and the wider community; that the victim’s voice should be heard; and that the offender should accept responsibility, consider and reflect upon the consequences of his or her action, and repair the harm caused.”

A precise definition of RJ is difficult since the term can encompass a variety of different methodologies. One of the most commonly accepted process-based definitions has been provided by Tony Marshall7, a British advocate for RJ:

“Restorative Justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future.”

RJ programmes, therefore, enable the victim, the offender and affected members of the community to be directly involved in responding to the crime. Marshall emphasises two key process values:

Participation. The process should involve the participation of as many stakeholders as possible. Participation of both victim and offender should be based on their free, voluntary and informed consent. Hence, Marshall argues that, for an offender to be properly engaged in a restorative process, their participation must be optional and non-participation should not carry with it an additional punishment.

Ownership. The stakeholders should decide on the best course of action to repair the harm caused by the offence. Importantly, the outcome of a restorative process should be achieved by consensus such that it is considered fair and proportional by all parties.

RJ represents a different way of looking at crime in which the primary goal is not to punish but to restore or repair the harms and injuries caused by a criminal event. Restoration is achieved by actively involving those most affected by a crime in dealing with its consequences and empowering all participants to decide on a resolution. In this manner, the process of criminal justice can be rebalanced to place greater emphasis on the harm caused to the victim. In his submission to the Joint Committee, Mr. Sean Aylward, Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform observed that:

“The concept of RJ offers a voice to the victim, which is unusual in a rather formal adversarial system. The voice of the victim can be overlooked in more traditional or historic modes of court procedure. RJ also confronts in a very real way and challenges offenders to consider the damage they have done and acknowledge the consequences of their wrongful behaviour in a very direct way.”

It is important to emphasise that RJ is not intended as an alternative to the existing criminal justice system. Instead RJ practices would represent an additional option in law enforcement and judicial proceedings that could be applied to certain categories of offence without excluding the possibility of traditional retributive methods. Mr. Michael Donnellan, Director of the Probation Service told the Joint Committee that by adopting an RJ approach it is possible to:

“Empower the other stakeholders in crime: namely victims, offenders, communities and support services, without undermining the legitimate authority of the state agencies.”

During RJ processes, the central concern is not to determine the laws that have been broken but to consider the people who have been affected. Consequently, a prerequisite for RJ is that the victim and offender agree on the facts of the case and the offender must accept responsibility. As a result, RJ is not for everyone. In addition, RJ does not normally involve legal representation, therefore the victim and offender speak for themselves and are directly involved in the process. Hence, the process is characterised by dialogue and negotiation among the parties involved, whereas retributive justice is characterised by adversarial relations among the parties. Victims of crime are given the opportunity to seek, if they wish, an apology, some form of reparation, more information on the offence, or ask questions and raise issues of concern in a safe and non-threatening environment. In this way offenders often come to see the negative consequences of their actions in a way that is not encouraged by current criminal justice practices. According to Morris8:

“Restorative processes and practices should empower offenders and victims by giving them a sense of inclusion in and satisfaction with these processes and practices; they should enable victims to feel better as a result of participating in them; and they should hold offenders accountable in meaningful ways by encouraging them to make amends to their victims.”

RJ encourages the offender to take responsibility for their harmful behaviour in a meaningful way, to gain insight into the causes and effects of that behaviour on others, to change that behaviour and to be accepted back into the community9. Hence the interests of the victim are served by attempting to repair the harm caused, be it emotional or material, and the interests of the offender are served by providing the opportunity to understand the impact of their actions, express remorse, atone for their actions and reintegrate themselves into the community. The offender is enabled to demonstrate to the victim, their families and their community that they have gained an understanding as to the implications and consequences of their offending behaviour, and that they have learned how to avoid situations that could lead them to committing other offences in the future. In addition, a unique aspect of RJ practices is that the victim is able to observe the consequences and effectiveness of the sanctions imposed.

The RJ approach recognises that the contributing factors in any crime are usually diverse and complex. The outcomes of an RJ process can include some elements of retributive justice, some elements of rehabilitative justice that seek to encourage future law abiding behaviour and some elements of restorative justice by asking how the offender can make up for what s/he has done. The flexibility afforded by this approach allows for a far more holistic response that can address the causes of a crime and target factors that are likely to encourage future criminal behaviour.

B) Some common Restorative Justice methodologies

It is important to note that there is no clear distinction between criminal justice practices that are restorative and those that are not. McCold and Wachtel10 have argued that responses to crime can be placed on a spectrum of restorativeness. The key defining criteria have already been described earlier and include involvement of key stakeholders (victim, offender and community), voluntary participation, efforts to explore the context and consequences of offending, and consensus based outcomes that seek to redress the harm caused by the offence. Although some of the outcomes in traditional criminal proceedings will contain elements that are restorative, proponents in the field of RJ have developed new practices that maximise the potential for restorative outcomes. A description of the most common RJ methodologies is provided in this section.

Victim/Offender Mediation (VOM)

In essence, VOM involves a meeting between the victim and offender facilitated by a trained mediator. In situations where there is no individual victim, VOM can take place between the offender and a representative of the victimised group (e.g. in cases of shoplifting or vandalism) or a community representative (e.g. drugs offences). This meeting provides a safe, non-threatening forum for victims and offenders to directly or indirectly communicate with each other. Like other RJ programmes the process is designed to meet the needs of the victim while also raising the awareness and understanding of the offender in relation to the impact of their offending behaviour. During VOM the victim can talk about the impact of the crime on them, seek an apology and restitution, ask specific questions of the offender, express their feelings, voice anger and frustration and seek commitments from the offender on future behaviour or contact. With the assistance of the mediator, the victim and offender begin to resolve the conflict and to construct their own approach to repairing the harm caused by the crime. Both participants are given the opportunity to express their feelings and perceptions of the offence. The meetings aim to conclude with a mutual agreement reached on steps the offender will take to repair the harm suffered by the victim and in other ways to “make things right”.

The mediator is charged with checking that both the victim and offender are psychologically capable of making the mediation a constructive experience, that the victim will not be further harmed by the meeting with the offender, and that both understand that participation is voluntary. Agreed reparation as well as payment and monitoring schedule are laid out in a contract.


Conferencing first appeared in legislation in New Zealand in 1989 and has since been implemented in a number of other countries. This method arises from the practices of indigenous populations, in New Zealand and North America, which are noted for their strong kinship and extended family ties and have been used primarily to deal with juvenile offenders. Conferencing proceeds only when the offender admits guilt and is not used to determine guilt. In most cases, the offender can opt for a traditional determination of guilt or innocence through the court if they do not wish to participate. The Real Justice Organisation have described conferencing as:

“A structured meeting between offenders, victims and both parties’ family and friends in which they deal with the consequences of the crime and decide how best to repair the harm. Neither a counselling nor a mediation process, conferencing is a straightforward problem-solving method that demonstrates how citizens can resolve their own problems when provided with a constructive forum to do so.”

Conferencing is similar to VOM but seeks to involve a broader range of interested parties including the families, community support groups, police and social welfare officials in addition to the victim and offender. The involvement of this variety of groups contributes to the empowerment and healing of the overall community and is designed to instil in the offender a sense of accountability to his/her family, social circle and society. In addition, by including support persons for both the victim and offender, conferences address potential power imbalances. Important to this approach is recognition of the constructive value of “reintegrative shame” (as opposed to disintegrative shame or stigmatization), whereby the community denounces the offence but not the offender whom they seek to reintegrate back into society11.

As in VOM, conferencing participants explore the context and impact of the offence and discuss reparation. The precise steps that are followed during conferencing will vary from programme to programme but typically the offender and his/her family meet privately to discuss reparation, thereafter presenting an offer to the victim and others in attendance. Negotiations continue until a consensus is reached and the agreement is put to writing.

Sentencing Circles

Sentencing Circles have arisen from practices operated in many Native American populations. In Europe this method is far less common but would include the victim, an offender, their community and legal professionals. Sentencing Circles move beyond VOM and conferencing to include the community in the decision making process and can extend to anyone concerned about the crime. During a Sentencing Circle everyone present is given a chance to speak and participation in the circle is voluntary.

Typical Sanctions

Two traditional criminal justice sanctions are used in restorative responses to crime: restitution and community reparation. With restitution the offender offers a sum of money, or in-kind services to compensate the victim for losses incurred and can be imposed by the judge or agreed during mediation, conferencing or sentencing circles. Community reparation is to be distinguished from community service since it is not used as a retributive punishment. What distinguishes its use as a restorative response is the attention given to identifying the particular harm suffered by the community as a result of the offender’s crime, and the effort to ensure that the offender’s community service repairs that particular harm. So, for example, offenders who put graffiti on buildings in a neighbourhood can be given the community service of removing graffiti from buildings in that neighbourhood. Aside from these two sanctions a wide variety of alternative compensatory activities could be agreed. For example, the offender might agree to attend alcohol awareness meetings, drug rehabilitation programmes, anger management or re-enter the education system. Restitution alone is not sufficient for the process to be considered restorative, the emotional harm caused by the crime must also be addressed and efforts must be made to reintegrate the offender.

Hence, instead of simply punishing the offender RJ can provide a far more holistic, flexible and imaginative range of outcomes that can directly address the impact of crimes and reduce the likelihood of their re-occurrence.

C) Potential Advantages of the Restorative Justice Approach

The potential benefits of an RJ approach are manifold. First and foremost, the central aim of RJ is to improve victim satisfaction with the criminal justice system and to improve public confidence through greater engagement of local communities. In addition, the implementation of RJ practices can have a number of highly desirable, indirect consequences. For example, since RJ promotes practices that reduce the likelihood of future offending and facilitate reintegration of offenders to the community, RJ has the potential to impact on rates of recidivism. RJ practices also have the potential to relieve the strain on the courts and prison services by diverting suitable cases away from prosecution and/or incarceration. Another major strength of the RJ approach is the potential for a more holistic response to crime. The flexibility of the methods used allows for a myriad of potential outcomes for the offender that can address environmental, psychological or behavioural factors that may have triggered the initial offence. For example, in response to a question from Senator Moylan, Ms. Carolan of Restorative Justice Services in Tallaght informed the Joint Committee that 84% of all offences referred to the project were alcohol related. Such cases are typically referred to alcohol awareness programmes or AA meetings. Ms. Carolan pointed out to the Joint Committee that for many offenders participating in a RJ process, it is the first time that they will have thought about the influence of alcohol on their behaviour and the role it may have played in their arrest. Since RJ practices focus on the causes of crime, a wider implementation in Ireland could have a significant indirect impact on other social problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and education.

In her submission to the Joint Committee, Ms. Carolle Gleeson, co-ordinator of NCRP told the Joint Committee:

“The benefits of the [RJ] model are considerable. It is an imaginative way to deal with some types of crime that involves early intervention to address potentially serious behaviour from escalating into a cycle of offending. It provides the victim with a voice and an understanding of the offender which removes much of the fear. In addition, offenders tend to feel that the legal system has treated them fairly.”

Mr. Kieran O’Dwyer of the Irish Prison Service also felt that the benefits of this model are considerable:

“The benefits for the offender, highlighted in the Garda evaluation, include the opportunity to make amends and be reintegrated into the community. Offenders are often short-changed by their experience of the court-based system and sidelined with somebody speaking on their behalf. Benefits for the victim include the opportunity to be heard and secure reparation for the harm caused. One of the greatest gripes victims have with the criminal justice system is they feel sidelined, despite recent changes to bring them into the foreground and involve them. Benefits for the community include involvement in the resolution of conflicts through volunteer work, the ability to support one group or the other or facilitate meetings, reduced reoffending, community harmony and improved safety.”

In his submission to the Joint Committee, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Sean Aylward also supported the development of a restorative justice programme:

“The Department’s mission is to work for a safer, fairer Ireland. This is a very tall order and high ambition. The restorative justice topic, which is being discussed today, fits very neatly into our core mission. ... The belief that wrongful actions should have real consequences is central to the concept of criminal justice. A society in which people conduct themselves inappropriately and cause suffering or loss without consequences is an unjust society. The restorative justice model is one of the more benign ways of meet the central requirement of a civilised society. I regard it as having considerable potential for further use in the criminal justice system. However, the concept must be kept firmly within the jacket of the criminal justice system and should not become part of some alternative society or state within a state. It is very important that it mesh in with the other elements of the criminal justice system and be subject to appropriate constitutional and democratic oversight.”

The actual impact of RJ programmes, both nationally and internationally, will be assessed in sections E and F of this report.

D) Common Criticisms

As an approach to crime, RJ is not above criticism and during its deliberations the Joint Committee considered a number of potential difficulties and weaknesses that could arise from adopting an RJ approach.

Perhaps the most common criticism of the RJ approach has been that it is a soft or easy option that allows offenders to escape real punishment. However, as stated previously, RJ methods allow for a great degree of flexibility in selecting possible sanctions for a particular offence and sanctions that are primarily retributive in nature (e.g. monetary compensation or engaging in community work) are not excluded when engaging in this process. While the offender can be given the opportunity to avoid a criminal record and/or custodial sentence when participating in RJ, they are required to directly confront their victim and to face the personal distress and inconvenience caused by their behaviour in a manner that is rarely possible during court proceedings. In addition, since the victim of the offence in question is given a central role in selecting the sanctions to be imposed, RJ increases the probability that the outcome will be considered fair and satisfactory. As a further safeguard, many RJ models require that the outcome of a particular case should be reviewed and endorsed by a judge or programme director whose role it is to guard against disproportionately lenient or severe outcomes. As we will see in sections E and F, there is overwhelming evidence indicating that victims do not view RJ as a soft option for the offender and that victims are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome of an RJ process than a traditional retributive process. Importantly, this research has indicated that public perceptions of RJ effectiveness are closely related to the quality of its implementation, staff training and funding. Hence, the outcomes of RJ can be as challenging to the offender as those produced by retributive approaches and an RJ programme will only be a soft option if it is not properly implemented.

There was a strong consensus at the Committee hearings that the RJ approach is not a soft response to crime. Ms. Gleeson, co-ordinator of the Nenagh Community Reparation Project told the Joint Committee:

“It is often said that RJ is a soft option but I take issue with that because it makes offenders face the consequences of their behaviour. In the ordinary justice system the offender is somewhat distanced from the consequences of his or her crime because he or she is represented by a solicitor. Our project makes offenders come face to face with members of the community who confront them with the consequences of their crimes. The project provides both victims and offenders with a sense that the legal process is seen to be helpful and has treated them fairly.”

Sean Aylward, Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform stated:

“I agree with my colleagues in the Probation Service that RJ is not an easy option for an individual going that route. On the contrary, an offender subject to RJ may be answering fully, for the first time, for behaviour in which he may have been involved for some time.”

Similarly, Mr. Pat Crummey, Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Siochana, stated:

“We know that a large proportion of victims are quite happy with the process. We also know that offenders find RJ to be a difficult process but they also feel included and that they are being heard and treated with respect.”

Conversely, another common concern regarding the RJ approach has been that without due process, and the safeguards provided by a court, disproportionately severe sanctions could be imposed on a weak offender. Once again, the presence of a facilitator during RJ practices and the supervision of a judge or programme director should ensure that the offender is treated fairly. International and domestic research, summarised in section E and F, has also consistently reported high ratings of satisfaction and fairness amongst offenders who participated in RJ programmes.

As stated previously, proponents of RJ have argued that this approach is not an alternative to traditional criminal justice methods and is not necessarily appropriate for all victims or for all offenders. However, as part of the legal armoury of law enforcement officials, probation officers and judges, this approach has strong potential value to benefit victims, offenders and the wider community as part of a more holistic response to crime. Peter Keeley of Restorative Justice Services in Tallaght told the Joint Committee:

“We are not here to tell the committee that RJ is the panacea or that it is the solution for every victim or offender. We are saying that as a broader response to crime, RJ can make a significant positive contribution if properly resourced, planned and delivered in an appropriate manner.”

Several commentators have also highlighted the fact that the rhetoric of RJ is at risk of being misattributed to criminal justice practices that are not primarily restorative .

Brian Williams13 has provided the example of the ‘reparation order’ scheme which was recently implemented in the UK. This scheme empowers the court to order an offender to undertake reparation, either directly to their victim or (more commonly), to carry out indirect or symbolic forms of reparation. Under this system, participation in the assignment of reparation orders is voluntary on the part of victims but compulsory for offenders irrespective of whether or not they accept responsibility for the offence. This approach misses the key RJ process’s value of voluntary participation and carries with it a number of risks. In particular, there is a danger of re-victimising the victim by exposing them to an unrepentant offender. This may account for the finding that victim involvement in most of the pilot areas was very low. In fact, many respected commentators have argued that coerced reparation is a contradiction in terms and, indeed, international research indicates that compelling the offender to attend is generally counter-productive . As a result, attempting to add elements of compulsion that would make RJ a ‘tougher’ response to crime can, in fact, reduce its impact.

Hence, Williams draws our attention to the risk that RJ terminology can be misused to describe practices that are in fact primarily retributive or, at best, only partially restorative. For this reason, it is important that RJ schemes should be implemented according to a clear ethical code and a set of guiding principles to ensure that the resultant practices remain restorative.

E) International Examples

Since the 1980s RJ practices have been proliferating all over the world. National RJ programmes have been implemented in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, U.S.A., the U.K. and in many continental European countries. At a recent conference held by Restorative Justice Services in Dublin on the 18th November 2006, Professor Arthur Hartmann outlined the extent of RJ practices in Europe15. In Europe, RJ programmes have focused primarily on VOM for juvenile offenders and the first examples were initiated in the mid 1980s in the form of model projects. Variations in service quality and in levels of support amongst local practitioners have largely determined the success of these RJ programmes. As a result the impact of RJ on criminal justice systems has been significant in some countries (e.g. France, Austria) but not in others and there is even variation within different regions of the same country (e.g. Germany which has over 400 services).

In general however, victim and offender participation and satisfaction rates have been beyond expectation and, as a result, almost all continental European countries have introduced specific legislation to support VOM. The recommendation of the Council of Europe R (99) 1916 and the framework decision of the Council of the European Union on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings17 promotes specific legislation in the field of RJ and particularly in the form of VOM. In addition the United Nations Economic and Social Council endorsed Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters (2002) which urges the governments of member nations to create guidelines and standards for the use of restorative justice programmes.

During the 1990s, the number of mediation programmes and the amount of cases dealt with on an annual basis increased steadily in European countries. At present, RJ in the form of VOM is a significant practice in at least eight European countries including France, Austria, Norway, and Germany. Professor Hartmann notes that although a total of 19 other countries are making progress in RJ the growth of restorative practice in Europe is still primarily based on individual practitioners and local public support and the number of programmes, although now more than 800 in all of Europe, remains proportionally low. Although the focus of VOM in some European countries is still predominantly on juveniles, the application in general criminal law is gaining more and more acceptance.

In relation to international practice, Deputy Hoctor raised the possibility of using RJ in schools to help to spread awareness of its practical benefits:

“ has worked very successfully in some European countries where students use restorative justice methods to help with the working of discipline in their schools. I would be interested to hear from either group on the matter. In particular, Mr. O’Dwyer might be able to inform us more about the matter. Could he envisage it working in the Irish school system?”

Mr. O’Dwyer responded:

“There is some potential in the schools area. A number of initiatives are being pursued in Ireland. A cross-Border group is involved in that. There is scope for the philosophy of restorative justice to be highlighted on a much broader scale, for example in workplaces. It can be used in schools to empower pupils and staff”

Internationally, there is a large degree of variation in terms of reliance on volunteers to implement RJ. The volunteer model is dominant in Canada and the US, and within Europe in Norway, Finland and France. The prototype of these services is a group of 20-30 citizens who do the actual mediation work in their spare time. They perform this service for free, usually being reimbursed for costs incurred, sometimes with a limited extra remuneration per case. The volunteers are supported by a professional who is responsible for the general organisation of the service, the collaboration with the courts and other bodies and the recruiting, training and supervising of the volunteers. This reliance on volunteers is not uniform however as other countries in Europe are primarily oriented to a highly professionalised model. This is the case for Austria, Germany and Belgium.

The average duration of mediation varies from 24 days in Norway to six months in France18. In all cases the length of the average mediation is shorter than the average legal procedure in that country. Various studies concerning the financial cost of mediation show that this varies from €73 in France (for the category of less time-consuming cases) to €812 in Germany. In Finland it was calculated that the cost saving of a mediation process in comparison to a court procedure was approximately €580 per case.

Recidivism Rates

Deputy Peter Power raised an important point when he asked about the effectiveness of RJ programmes:

“If the model was to be rolled out throughout the country with the obvious benefits it has in certain cases, one of the key questions would be its relative effectiveness compared to traditional criminal justice systems and restoration in terms of traditional models of punishment, detention or community service. It is important to know the relative effectiveness of the system in that respect.”

Research in various countries is contributing to a growing body of evidence on the impacts of RJ practices on the parties involved and the criminal justice system. This work has made it possible to assess the relative effectiveness of RJ practices compared to traditional criminal justice systems in addressing issues such as victim/offender satisfaction, recidivism and cost-effectiveness.

One of the key debates within RJ has been whether or not these practices actually impact on future criminal conduct. Research in this domain is particularly difficult due to a number of methodological challenges. For example, to properly gauge the effectiveness of a particular programme it would be necessary to carefully select comparison groups such that the types of offences and the ages of offenders are comparable. In addition, different RJ programmes will vary in terms of the methodologies used (VOM, conferencing, sentencing circles), the kinds of offenders targeted, and in the quality of their implementation. As a result, the findings of separate research studies are not directly comparable. Since RJ is still a relatively new concept, there is a dearth of research that can properly gauge levels of recidivism. Nevertheless, a small number of carefully conducted studies have provided some indication of the impact of RJ practices in this regard.

One of the most detailed investigations of the effect of conferencing on recidivism arose from the Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE) for juveniles in Canberra, Australia19. Four groups of offenders were selected and divided into two matched groups according to whether or not their case was processed through the court or by conferencing. These cases were assessed over a one year period and it was found that when compared to court, conferences resulted in a 38% reduction in offending rates amongst violent offenders. The same study found a small increase in offending by drink drivers, attributed to the fact that the offender’s driving licence was not suspended if referred to conferencing, and no significant difference in offending by juvenile property offenders or shoplifters. Another study of recidivism was conducted in New South Wales20 which compared the re-offending rates of young people who went to a conference with re-offending rates of young people who attend court. Over a two year period the authors reported that conferencing produced a moderate reduction of 15% to 20% in re-offending across different offence types. Finally, Latimer and colleagues21 have published a meta-analysis of 35 international studies that looked into recidivism rates after RJ and found that re-offending was reduced by 7% on average.

Further research of this kind will be required to reliably gauge the impact of RJ on recidivism. In response to a question from Deputy O’Keeffe, Kieran O’Dwyer told the Joint Committee that:

“the burden of evidence is that [RJ] does at least have a modest impact on re-offending which is reduced if the conditions and the implementation are right.”

There was consensus amongst contributors to the Joint Committee that recidivism rates, and the success of RJ programmes in general, can be expected to vary depending on such issues as the type of community where they are implemented, how well resourced the RJ facilities are, how well trained staff are, as well as the types of policy and the ethos by which different programmes operate.

In fact, the notion that the value of an RJ programme should be measured in terms of its impact on recidivism is controversial amongst practitioners. At a 2004 meeting of the European Forum for RJ22, Liz Nelson, Head of the Home Office RJ Policy Team (UK) warned:

“There is a danger that an instrumentalist approach to restorative justice, based on what we know it can ‘do’ for the rest of the criminal justice system, ignores its real transformative value as simply a ‘better way of doing things’.”

RJ as a concept is not purely designed to provide an alternative to prison sentencing or to directly reduce rates of recidivism. There are many factors that contribute to crime including poverty, unemployment and poor education many of which cannot be directly addressed by this approach. The primary goal of RJ is to provide a solution to the conflict or a reparation, perceived as fair to both parties. When measured in these terms, there is overwhelming evidence that RJ is highly successful.

In Europe, research on RJ programmes has shown high satisfaction amongst victims and offenders, lower fear amongst victims and greater likelihood that reparation will be carried out23. According to Haley24, VOM projects in the U.S.A. and UK have uniformly resulted in (1) extremely high levels of victim satisfaction in terms of the perceived fairness of the processes as well as the outcome of negotiations with offenders; (2) at least a modest reduction in offender recidivism and; (3) higher levels of actual compensation received by victims than through the formal criminal justice process or other victim restitution programmes.

McCold and Wachtel 25collected data from 13 published programme evaluation studies where victims and offenders were surveyed. The ‘restorativeness’ of programmes was measured as the percentage of victims and offenders expressing satisfaction and fairness with their case. Programmes were classified as either fully restorative (involving victim, offender and community or family representatives), mostly restorative (two stakeholders) or non-restorative (traditional retributive process). The results revealed that a greater restorative element was associated with an increased likelihood that both the victim and offender would find the process to be satisfactory and fair.

In total, 91% of victims were satisfied with fully restorative programmes.

82% were satisfied with mostly restorative programmes.

Only 56% were satisfied with non-restorative processes.

Similarly, 95%) of offenders were satisfied with fully restorative programmes.

Only 73%) were satisfied with non-restorative processes.

These rather striking findings underline the core principles of RJ and emphasise the need for involving victims and communities of care in responses to crime.

F) Restorative Justice in Ireland

At present there are four programmes operating in Ireland that are based on RJ principles. Two of these programmes, the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and Court-Referred Family Conferencing under the auspices of the Probation Service, are focused solely on juvenile offenders. The Restorative Justice Services in Tallaght, and the Nenagh Community Reparation Scheme are directed towards adult offenders. In this section, a brief overview of these four programmes is provided.

Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme (GJDP)

The GJDP, which has been in operation since 1963, is designed to divert children from the criminal justice system and is achieved primarily by administering a formal or informal caution for all but the most serious offences. Formal cautions are reserved for more serious crimes and typically involve 12 months supervision by a police Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO). A number of restorative elements were introduced into the GJDP following publication of the Children Act 2001. The Act provides for a shift away from residential or custodial care to care in the community and is based on the principle that detention of children should only be used as a last resort. Under Section 18 of the Act, any child who commits an offence and accepts responsibility for it is entitled to be considered for inclusion in the GJDP “unless the interests of society otherwise require”.

Section 26 of the Act allows victims to be present at a formal caution and Section 29 extends the invitation to stakeholders such as social workers or teachers, allowing a broader range of people to come together. Hence, the Act provides for formal cautions to include elements of VOM (referred to as a ‘restorative caution’) and/or family conferencing (referred to as a ‘restorative conference’). In cases of mediation, the victim may be invited to attend formal cautions, which will involve a discussion of the offender’s behaviour and may entail an apology direct to the victim and/or reparation, including financial compensation. These meetings are initiated and facilitated by a countrywide network of 95 JLOs who have received standardised training in mediation skills and restorative practices. JLOs are responsible for assessing young offenders’ suitability for restorative intervention and make a recommendation to the National Director of the GJDP. The Act allows considerable flexibility to the Director in selecting offenders and deciding on the type of caution and supervision that should apply. According to current policy, priority should be given to cases that involve a readily identifiable victim26.

If approved for intervention the case is dealt with by a JLO other than the officer actually supervising the offender. While victim’s views are taken into consideration in selecting appropriate cases, victim consent and participation are not a prerequisite for the restorative caution or conference to proceed. Hence the GJDP can be described as being largely offender focused.

In appropriate cases a conference can be organised to be attended by the child, family members and other concerned persons from the community. The restorative conference differs from the restorative caution only in that it makes a greater effort to engage a broader range of expertise in an attempt to challenge the offender’s behaviour and to support any change that might come about as a result of the conference. The conference is designed to make offenders more aware of the consequences of their behaviour for the victim, to review behaviour since any supervision began and to discuss how further offending behaviour can be prevented. A conference cannot proceed without the agreement and attendance of the parents of the offender. Although victim participation is considered to be highly beneficial, the conference can proceed without their participation. The objective of the family conference is to agree an action plan which must be agreed unanimously unless the facilitator deems a disagreement to be unreasonable. The JLO then reports to the Director on the outcome of the conference.

An important element of the GJDP is that the Gardai have no formal role in pursuing implementation and there is no formal sanction for non-compliance. When an offender receives a formal caution the decision has already been made to divert their case away from the courts. If referred to restorative cautioning or restorative conferencing the offender is free to withdraw their participation and JLO supervision continues.

Since May 2002 the GJDP, which is national in coverage, has dealt with in excess of 700 restorative events. Assistant Commissioner Pat Crummy mentioned a welcomed increase in RJ programmes:

“Since its inception we have been increasing the number of restorative events year on year since 2003, and in 2005 we dealt with 262 events, which represents a 48% increase on the 2004 figures.”

The nature and type of offence dealt with by the GJDP has varied widely and has included serious assaults, robberies, and extensive criminal damage, burglaries, and drugs offences as well as community related offences and less serious matters. Since between 1000 and 1500 formal cautions are handed out each year there is significant scope for expansion.

An evaluation of the programme, presented to the Joint Committee by Kieran O’Dwyer, has found high levels of satisfaction on the part of offenders, victims and their supporters and none of the agreements appeared disproportionate to the harm caused or the needs of the offender.

Offenders complied with the agreements in 89% of cases, a rate that is considered high by international standards.

One third of cases re-offended but since difficult cases were targeted by the programme, it is difficult to draw any conclusions from this statistic.

Observed levels of satisfaction were high and 4 out of 5 cases were judged to be highly successful overall.

Of those interviewed, including parents, 94% said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the programme.

The participation rate of victims was high by international standards (76%), as were victim satisfaction rates (93%).

With respect to offender participation, Kieran O’Dwyer told the committee:

“We found the majority of offenders participated actively and did not just sit there without taking part. They were involved in decision making, understood what was going on, agreed with decisions and accepted responsibility. As part of the research, we interviewed a significant number of offenders and they confirmed they felt free to say what they wanted, felt treated fairly and that their participation was voluntary.”

Hence, the GJDP is consistent with one of the core process values of restorative justice in that offender satisfaction and reintegration is related to respect, opportunity to speak and the fairness of process and outcome. The extent to which the concept of RJ is welcomed and supported within the Garda force will be crucial to the continuing success of the GJDP as a restorative programme.

The Secretary General of the Department later commented on the welcomed increase in demand for this facility, and spoke of the Gardai’s support:

“The Garda Commissioner and his staff are sympathetic to the idea of extending restorative justice techniques and approaches to adult offenders. They are considering several options in that respect and this process will emerge. This has been a slow-burning policy, as is often the way: funding and staff are diverted to support a pilot programme and the implications of rolling that out nationwide can be significant. We are at the tipping point of proceeding with this. The advice and recommendation of the committee will have a bearing on how the Minister and Government take the matter forward.”

In response to a question from Deputy Hoctor, Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Siochana, Mr. Pat Crummey discussed perceptions of RJ amongst members of the Gardai:

“Is (the GJDP) seen as a soft option? Not at all and certainly not throughout the organisation. It is very much an accepted part of the criminal justice process within the Garda Siochana and is not seen as a soft option whatsoever. Our focus and that of Chief Superintendent Cregg and his staff in the national juvenile office is to ensure that all juveniles who find themselves on the wrong side of the law are given the option of being part of the RJ process. We want to ensure that nobody slips through the cracks. Some young offenders are actually charged and brought before the courts without being given the opportunity to go through this system. That is our focus at present.”

The GJDP is still at an early stage of its evolution and efforts are being made to extend the service as widely as possible. However, a report by Kieran O’Dwyer27 has noted that JLOs are operating under a considerable workload and as a result, the number of restorative cases has been relatively low. Kieran O’Dwyer also mentioned the lack of awareness of this facility to the Joint Committee:

“The success of the restorative justice system has been a well-kept secret, for honourable reasons. Perhaps we could take some action to raise awareness of it, while continuing to respect the privacy of the participants, which is of paramount importance. It is important to tell the good story, particularly at a time when most agencies have a good deal of experience.”

Consequently on a more recent Garda review of the GJDP, it has been recommended to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that the number of JLOs should be increased to meet the additional demands associated with implementing the Children Act (see Dail PQ number 288 of 24 October [34673/06]).

Court-referred Family Conferences for Juvenile Offenders

As well as placing the GJDP on a statutory footing, the Children Act 2001 provides for the possibility of court-referred restorative family conferences for juveniles. This scheme, which is also national in coverage, is coordinated and funded by the Probation Service and is similar to the Garda conference. Mr. David O’Donovan, Deputy Director of the Probation Services, outlined how RJ programmes fit into their duties:

“The probation service helps to reduce the level of crime and increase public safety by working with offenders in a humane but effective way to change their behaviour. There was some discussion this morning about soft options. The probation service does not see itself as operating soft options. Our job is to address offenders and to get them to face up to their crimes, which fits in very well with the whole approach of restorative justice”

Under the Act, the Children Court is authorised to adjourn the proceedings against a child and direct the Probation Service to convene a family conference. The option to order a family conference is open to all judges of a Children Court but is at their discretion. The conference is facilitated by a Probation Officer who has statutory power to invite anyone they feel may assist the process including a member of the police or school. The legislatively-defined purpose of a family conference is to bring together the child, his or her parents or guardian, other relatives and those who could make a positive contribution and to establish the reasons for the child’s criminal behaviour, discuss how the child’s family can help to prevent the child from re-offending, and to formulate an action plan. The court will not refer a case to family conferencing if the offender does not accept responsibility for their criminal behaviour or if the offender and his/her parent or guardians do not consent to attend and participate.

On occasions where there is no discernible victim or where a victim is identified but chooses not to participate, the Probation Service will attempt to get an individual to represent the actual victim’s views or to represent the views of the community (for example in the case of a public order incident) or the business community’s perspective (for example in the case of theft from a retail outlet). As with the GJDP, the victim may attend upon invitation but the decision to invite is at the discretion of the facilitator. Following the conference, the court must approve and/or amend the action plan and the case is adjourned for no more than 6 months after which a review takes place. An essential difference between the GJDP and Probation Service programmes is that the court has powers of compulsion in court-referred cases. Failure to comply with the court’s order without reasonable cause will result in the resumption of court proceedings in respect of the offence with which the child is charged.

The court-referred family conference programme became fully operational in October 2004. A comprehensive preliminary evaluation of this programme has been conducted by Mary Burke:28

By March 2006, a total of 62 referrals had been received from the court.

50 of these referrals resulted in the convening of a family conference, 49 of which led to the agreement of an action plan.

Victims attended or were represented in 38 of these cases.

50% of cases resulted in successful completion of the action plan and were dismissed by the court.

A further 20% of cases were awaiting their 6 month review.

In nine cases, the court had resumed proceedings due to non-compliance or re-offending.

In five cases the court had issued a non-appearance warrant.

This programme is still at a very early stage and further evaluation will be required to properly gauge its impact. One important point noted by Ms. Burke was the sporadic nature of referrals from the court. From October 2004 to March 2006 there was a gradual decline in the number of referrals and the programme was largely dependent on referrals made by a single Dublin-based judge. This difficulty may reflect a weakness associated with the discretionary powers provided by the current legislation.

However Mr. Brian Horgan, Senior Probation Officer with the Probation Service, outlined that the Probation Service is committed to succeed in adjusting RJ programmes to fit in with the criminal justice system:

“There are significant gains to be achieved for the Irish criminal justice system and the probation service is committed to develop processes and interventions that realise those gains.”

Mr. Donnellan continued:

“In summary, the probation service wants to examine how a restorative approach can be mainstreamed into our everyday work so we can deliver more effective sanctions in the community for the benefit of victims and also to challenge offenders in their behaviour.”

Restorative Justice Services (RJS), Tallaght

RJS is an independent organisation funded by the Probation Service and managed by a partnership of stakeholders in the criminal justice system including the Probation Service, Victim Support, An Garda Siochana, Crosscare and members of the community. RJS facilitates offender reparation and VOM for adult offenders and has been receiving referrals from the courts in Dublin and adjoining areas since being formally launched by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in February 2000. Referrals to the programme occur at the pre-sentencing stage and are left to the discretion of judges but interested parties in a case (Probation and Welfare Service, An Garda Siochana, Victim Support, a Solicitor) may request that the judge consider reparation or mediation.

Although there are no formal criteria for case selection, the Offender Reparation Programme is primarily for first time offenders and deals with public order offences, low level assault and low level criminal damage. Following referral by the judge, the offender is fully informed about the programme and may be given the option of criminal conviction, a fine or participation in the programme. If the offender consents to take part, the case is remanded to a later date and is then referred to the Probation Service who pass on the relevant details to RJS. The offender is contacted and given an appointment to meet with an RJ facilitator. Together they discuss the offence, its effects, consequences and possible ways in which the offender can repair the harm caused. A date is then agreed for the offender to meet with the Reparation panel which is made up of representatives from An Garda Siochana, Probation Service, the Community and an assigned RJ facilitator. During the meeting, the offence and its consequences are discussed and a ‘contract’ (similar to the action plan discussed above) is agreed. When the offender has completed the actions in the contract a second meeting takes place to assess levels of contract completion. A report is then submitted to the court. If the judge agrees that the offender has successfully completed his/her contract, the case will be disposed of under the Probation of Offenders 1907 Act and there will be no criminal record relating to the offence.

The VOM service offered by RJS deals primarily with serious assaults, criminal damage and larceny although, again, there are no formal criteria for case selection. The criteria for referral are that the offender must plead guilty to the offence. In addition, all cases should have an identifiable victim and contain elements that have the potential for a resolution that can be mediated. Following referral, separate meetings are held with the victim and the offender to discuss and assess levels of interest, suitability, motivation and possible objectives. In the case of a joint meeting or other form of contacts, the context and content of the dialogue is discussed and agreed in advance. RJS facilitate a number of different contact options if the victim is unwilling to meet with the offender directly. For example, a victim statement can be read out by the facilitator or shuttle meetings can be conducted in which information is transferred between two separate rooms. Again the goal is to discuss the reasons for the offence, the impact that it had on the victim or victims, answer any questions the victim may have, and to agree a method of reparation. Following VOM a report is provided to the court which outlines the nature of discussions and the main points of any outcome. At this point the court makes its decision as to how the matter will proceed in terms of official sanction. Importantly, the court offers no guaranteed leniency for those who take part in VOM. If an agreement is reached the judge may decide that no further sanction is required but it is not unusual for the offender to be made subject to probation order or to be bound over to keep the peace or to have to pay a fine as well.

RJS is heavily dependent on community involvement. Community representatives chair the Board of Directors, Board of Management, Reparation Panels and are an important part of the training team. Members of the community also train to become RJ caseworkers, working alongside full time professionals in the criminal and RJ to facilitate Offender Reparation and VOM. RJS currently has a panel of 24 caseworkers. The average mediation case requires between 12 and 14 hours of work. In his submission to the Joint Committee, Peter Keeley, Director of RJS, reported that there is a willingness in the community to participate in these projects and there has been a good response to advertisements for volunteers. RJS is funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform through the Probation Service and received a budget of €320,000 in 2005 during which 120 cases were completed. This budget covered the salary costs of a manager and part-time administrator, office rental and running costs, travel, training and payment to mediators who receive an hourly rate.

To date, RJS have received more than 350 court referrals to their service. Although, referrals have been received from a number of courts, the service has worked particularly closely with the Tallaght District court. The vast majority of cases (82%) who participated in this programme were aged between 18 and 26. RJS published a progress report in 2005. Out of 100 cases referred to the Offender Reparation service in 2005, 97 involved completion of contract to the satisfaction of the district court. In total, over €26,000 was donated to charity and reparation agreements included verbal and written apologies, financial compensation to the victim and/or community, non-contact policies, acts of reparation such as charity work and commitments to future good behaviour. Peter Keeley told the Joint Committee that 10 of the 100 cases had re-offended as of November 2006.

Deputy O’Connor, who has been an active supporter of the group, commended the Tallaght Centre on their valuable work, and enquired as to how this service could be extended:

I have raised this question on a number of occasions in the Dail because the success of the projects in Tallaght and Nenagh demands that the Department should extend this service to the rest of the country. I know that the Tallaght centre will be happy to show the lead in that regard. I am sure Deputy Hoctor will make a similar point about the Nenagh project.”

Nenagh Community Reparation Project (NCRP)

The NCRP is a relatively small project, funded on an annual basis by the Probation Service, which has been running since June 1999. The NCRP was inspired by a similar project in Timaru, New Zealand and was promoted by a District Court Judge Michael Reilly, and by the head of the Probation Service Mr. Martin Tansey, who visited New Zealand as part of a review of the probation service. The project has also benefited from the support of Deputy Hoctor who serves on the board of directors. The focus of the NCRP is primarily on community reparation as opposed to mediation. The project covers the town of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary and its hinterland and deals primarily with adult offenders. Deputy Sean O’Fearghail questioned why the NCRP “focus(es) exclusively on adults”. Carolle Gleeson, co-ordinator of the NCRP responded:

“One very important question was raised as to why we deal with adults and not children. Under the Criminal Justice Act 2001, we have conferencing for children, which is similar. That is dealt with by the probation service through family conferencing. That separate area is provided for in the legislation.”

Ms. Gleeson emphasised to the Joint Committee that:

“The project does not provide an alternative to the criminal justice system, merely another option in community sanctions.”

The practices implemented by the NCRP adhere to best practice as laid out in the draft report of the United Nations on crime prevention and criminal justice. Referrals to the NCRP are made by the District Court at the pre-sentencing stage and are received by a panel that includes two community representatives, who have attended mediation training at RJS Tallaght, a Garda representative, a Probation Officer who chairs the meeting and acts as Project Co-ordinator and, possibly, the victim. The offender is asked to outline the reason for his/her appearance. The Garda representative is in possession of the facts of the case to ensure full disclosure or clarify confusion. If the victim is not present, the co-ordinator may read out a statement on their behalf. If the victim is present he/she may ask questions or make comments. Following further discussion the offender is encouraged to outline a possible plan of action which will address his/her offending behaviour and its consequences, make reparation to the community and help to reduce the risk of their re-offending. The resulting agreement must be achieved unanimously and all participants must agree that its content is fair and achievable.

The NCRP is unique as an RJ project in Ireland due to its heavy dependence on a core group of unpaid community volunteers. As the Nenagh project is not on a statutory basis, all professional stakeholders have undertaken to co-operate with and develop the project in addition to their normal workload29. Ms. Alice Brislane of the NCRP informed the Joint Committee that this kind of model would not be easily applied in all communities, for example, in inner city areas where community ties are limited or where the population is transient.

The NCRP consists of a Board of Directors, who are representative of the voluntary, statutory and community organizations in the Nenagh district, 14 volunteer community members and the project coordinator. In response to a question posed by Senator Maurice Cummins, the Joint Committee was informed that the Nenagh project has the capacity to deal with 24-30 cases per year and received a budget of €40,000 in 2005. This budget covers the costs of a part-time administrator, office costs as well as travel and training expenses. The NCRP published a Baseline Study in 2002 and an Evaluation Report in 2004. The most common offences were public order, possession of drugs, criminal damage and assault and 85% of offenders were aged 19-25. Sixteen percent of offenders who participated in the NCRP had re-offended at the time of the 2004 report. In many of the cases dealt with by the NCRP there was no individual victim but in most cases that did involve an identifiable victim, the victim was unwilling to participate. The reports found high rates of contract completion and examples included making an apology, attending drugs and alcohol counseling, fundraising and paying compensation. The report found that satisfaction ratings were high amongst victims and offenders. As of 2005 the Nenagh programme had processed 64 cases in total and the Joint Committee was informed that the scope of the project has been limited by the small number of referrals made by judges and this has hampered efforts to stimulate greater victim involvement.

G) Summary of International and Domestic Evidence

The preceding sections of this report have demonstrated that there is a convincing body of international and domestic evidence supporting the effectiveness of RJ approaches in criminal justice. Following a comprehensive review of the available research literature the UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters (2002) concludes that RJ has proven efficacy in:

improving victim satisfaction with the criminal justice system

improving public confidence in the criminal justice system through greater engagement of local communities

reducing re-offending by offenders

improving the efficacy of the courts by diverting cases away from prosecution.

For victims, the benefits are well-documented. Victims involved in RJ processes invariably receive more information about their case than participants in conventional criminal justice systems, they are able to hold the offender accountable for what they did and get the answers to any questions that might have bothered them. Importantly, there is also evidence that offenders are more likely to make restitution to the victim as part of an RJ programme in comparison to cases that have been processed through the courts. Hence, both the psychological and material needs of the victim are effectively addressed when an RJ approach is adopted. However, an important lesson to be learned from international examples is that programmes have failed where they were not adequately resourced and that victim and offender satisfaction ratings tend to be closely related to the level of training of staff and the quality of the service 30.

Although definitive research is still lacking, the weight of international evidence points to a marginal decrease in rates of recidivism amongst offenders who take part in RJ programmes. Since RJ is at an early stage of its evolution in Ireland the available data is too limited to draw any clear conclusions but each of the programmes did report relatively low rates of recidivism amongst their participants (16% for the NCRP, 10% approx for RJS Tallaght, 33% for the GJDP). In his submission to the Joint Committee, Sean Aylward noted that:

“If we can divert people from the treadmill of custody and offending that is positive, even if it applies to only a minority. Everybody we save from that treadmill represents not only a saving for the taxpayer but also for society. We want to mitigate the cost to society and give people a second chance.”

Another issue which must be considered in assessing the merits of RJ practices is their cost effectiveness. Reviewing the pilot projects conducted in Ireland to date, it appears that RJ costs compare favourably to those associated with court proceedings and incarceration. The Irish Prison Services Annual Report 2005 stated that the average cost of keeping an offender in prison for one year was €90,900. In 2005, the Restorative Justice Services in Tallaght diverted 120 offenders away from the courts at a cost of €320,000 or €2,600 per offender while the average cost of dealing with an offender in the Nenagh Community Reparation Project was just €1,000 approximately. While a direct comparison is inappropriate, this initial evidence suggests that RJ does not represent an insurmountable financial burden. Deputy Hoctor put the cost of such a service in perspective with her following comments:

“Not only is it cost effective, it helps people to rebuild lives and could break the cycle of crime if it is caught in time. That has been the case in Nenagh. There are so many benefits we cannot put a cost on.”

Deputy O’Connor outlined the Committee’s enthusiasm for implementation of restorative justice:

“It is time the Department and the Minister considered the good value the scheme provides and decided it is time to do more of this work. There will always be prisons and places of detention but I hope we will keep moving and restorative justice is the way to reach a situation where as few as possible are locked up. I hope the Department makes a further commitment to this work.”

An important issue which also needed to be raised concerns the method of developing RJ. Deputy O’Keeffe noted:

“From this morning’s discussion, there seems to be a good case for the establishment of a statutory underpinning for the development of restorative justice. Listening to the witnesses, it emerged as something that should be considered. I am particularly taken by the fact that the development under the Children Act seems to have provided that underpinning. There may be a case for doing this on a broader basis.”

Mr. Donnellan then went on to clarify that it is essential that the RJ model adopted fits into the current criminal justice system and does not attempt to develop independently:

“We heard this morning that restorative principles in Ireland are at an early stage. We need to develop a model of restorative justice suitable to our District Court structure. We do not seem to be clear about that and need to investigate and see how it can be embedded in our everyday work. We have a unique opportunity to do this and we in the probation service, with the help of the Department, hope to clarify that in the next few months, taking on board expert international advice.”

This report has outlined some of the strengths and weakness of an RJ approach to criminal justice and has reported convincing evidence that this approach is effective in addressing the needs of victims, offenders and wider society. In order to develop RJ as a national policy response to crime there is a need for practical recommendations to build on the undoubted good work that has already been done in this area.

H) Recommendations for the Expansion of Restorative Justice Practices in Ireland

Based on the examples of RJ programmes abroad and in Ireland, the Joint Committee makes the following recommendations for the implementation and expansion of RJ practices in Ireland:

Recommendation 1. Restorative Justice should be developed as a more regular feature of the Irish criminal justice system.

In light of the convincing international and domestic research demonstrating the efficacy of RJ methods for addressing the harm caused by crime, the Joint Committee endorses the concept of RJ as a potentially valuable approach to criminal justice while recognising that it is not appropriate for all offenders or for all victims. During its deliberations, the Committee received contributions from some of the most prominent figures in Irish criminal justice and there was a strong consensus that RJ, though by no means a panacea, should be developed as a standard mechanism for dealing with crime in Ireland.

Sean Aylward, Secretary General at the Department outlined to the Committee the potential of RJ:

“I see merit in exploring how we can extend the use of restorative justice around the country beyond the pilot programmes. The probation and welfare service, in its strategy statement of July 2006, stated it wished to see an expansion of the restorative justice approach in a planned and targeted way... There is certainly scope for further development of the restorative justice approach, particularly regarding those who have not established a life-long pattern of criminality. It is very important that the voice of the victim be heard and that he or she experience justice in the way his or her concerns are met through restorative justice activity ... The restorative justice scheme has scope and potential. If we are pressed further by the Oireachtas to do more in this regard, we will be open to it.”

Recommendation 2. Existing Restorative Justice programmes for juvenile offenders should be supported. In particular, the Committee recommends an increase in the number of JLOs to ensure the national coverage of the GJDP.

The GJDP is still at an early stage of its evolution and its long-term success can only be guaranteed by ensuring that the project is properly resourced. Kieran O’Dwyer’31 has drawn attention to the dangers of imposing excessive workloads on JLOs and recent evaluations of the project indicate that only a small proportion of formal cautions involve a restorative event. International experience suggests that the success of a particular RJ programme is largely dependent on the quality of its implementation and the training of its staff. In his submission to the Joint Committee, Inspector Finbarr Murphy of the GJDP emphasised the importance of training:

“When we set about developing the Garda model and looked at models in other countries, our view was that one of the reasons models eventually either failed or ran out of steam was lack of training.”

Restorative services cannot succeed if the quality of their implementation is sacrificed or if cases must be delayed in order to cope with resource and time constraints. The burden placed on JLOs is likely to increase with the enactment of the juvenile justice sections of the Criminal Justice Act 2006. If restorative practices for juvenile offenders are to be expanded throughout Ireland it is important that there be a sufficient number of JLOs to ensure that the restorative option is available to all offenders. Therefore, the Joint Committee recommends that additional JLOs should be recruited to the GJDP to ensure that restorative methods are available to as many juvenile offenders as possible.

Recommendation 3. Existing Restorative Justice Programmes (in Tallaght and Nenagh) for adult offenders should be given greater State support.

As outlined in section F, recent evaluations of the adult-focused projects in Nenagh and Tallaght have confirmed that these projects have been highly successful in diverting offenders away from the prison system while maintaining high levels of victim satisfaction and high rates of completed reparations.

Deputy Maire Hoctor informed the Committee at its meeting on 6th December:

“The Minister is familiar with the restorative justice project in Nenagh. It is interesting to refer to the UCD findings in the report published today where one in four is seen to reoffend. The offence profile clearly outlined in the report matches that of the restorative justice project in Nenagh where the vast majority are male, single and unemployed. The project is successful because eight out of ten do not reoffend.”

These projects are worthy of a strong endorsement by the Joint Committee which recognises the invaluable contributions of the people of Nenagh and Tallaght. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that funding to these projects should be continued and steps should be taken to ensure their expansion.

Recommendation 4. Restorative Justice practice for adult offenders should be provided for in legislation.

As discussed in Section F, the Nenagh and Tallaght pilot projects have been highly successful in implementing RJ services within their respective communities. In light of this encouraging work, and convincing international evidence, the Joint Committee recommends that RJ services should be extended to adults on a statutory basis. According to the Irish Prison Services Annual Report 39% of all committals in 2005 were for 3 months or less. Hence, a high percentage of the prison population are detained for relatively minor offences and a significant proportion of these committals could be potentially dealt with by RJ.

The Committee notes that a particular feature of the Nenagh project has been that all offenders who completed their agreed contracts have not been given a criminal record. While judicial discretion has to be allowed for, consideration should be given in any legislation for offenders to avoid a criminal record where they abide fully with the terms of an RJ programme.

A crucial step in expanding RJ services to include adult offenders will be to make specific provisions in legislation. In response to a question posed by Deputy Sean O’Fearghail as to whether the programme should be placed on statutory footing, Kieran O’Dwyer was clearly in favour:

“Opinion is divided on whether it would be useful to put it on a statutory basis. My view is that it would help because statutory requirements cannot be ignored. The Children Act 2001 gave a big impetus to the diversion programme ... It would have to be framed carefully but it would probably give a strong fillip to the movement. It is important to focus on quality ... It is a useful thing to do but it needs to be focused where it can have the most effect.”

The UN Economic and Social Council, the Council of Europe R (99) 1932 and the framework decision of the Council of the European Union on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings33 have advocated specific legislation in the field of RJ for juvenile and adult offenders. While RJ for juvenile offenders has been given a statutory footing, Ireland lags behind many European countries that have moved from operating a small number of RJ pilot programmes for adult offenders to providing specific legislation for a national strategy. In order to support and encourage the use of RJ for adult offenders by judges in Ireland, the Joint Committee recognises the need for specific legislation.

Since their foundation, RJ programmes in Nenagh and Tallaght have been largely dependent on the support of individual judges to champion their cause and make referrals. As a result the number of cases received by these programmes has been relatively small and below their potential capacity. While restorative options for adult offenders are already possible under current legislation the limited number of referrals received by existing RJ services indicates that there is a need to regularise the use of RJ for adult offenders and to make this option an integral part of the legal armoury of legal professionals and judges alike. Peter Keeley, RJS Tallaght spoke in support of providing a legislative basis:

“On pre-sentence court referrals, legislation might be an issue for the judges because the work we carry out is not grounded in legislation. We may need to examine that issue because judges operate under legislation, while we do not.”

In particular, legislation that requires judges to consider RJ approaches for adult offenders would increase awareness and facilitate a national expansion of adult-focused programmes. The potential impact of legislation has already been illustrated by the Children Act 2001 following which RJ practices for juveniles expanded considerably. Sean Aylward told the Joint Committee:

“The Children Act 2001 was an important Act. It gave the courts a range of options for dealing with offending behaviour. It declared firmly, and established, that detention was the option of last resort.”

Mr. Michael Donnellan, Director of Probation Service agreed, telling the Joint Committee:

“While the Children Act 2001 has taken time to get off the ground the concepts of RJ are embedded within the Act. I am convinced they could be extended to the adult system where appropriate. The pilot projects have given us invaluable information, working with adults and seeing how it works on the ground.”

Recommendation 5. A cross-sectoral working group should be created by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to develop a national strategy for RJ that is based on international best-practice.

The Joint Committee recognises the need for the development of a coherent national strategy on RJ that takes account of international best-practice as well as domestic experiences. As discussed in this report, RJ encompasses a range of different methodologies and practices. As a result there is a need for careful research to assess the impacts of specific restorative practices on the parties involved and the added value that they may bring to the mainstream criminal justice system. A fragmented approach to the development of RJ programmes could limit their long-term success. In order to ensure that the national implementation of RJ occurs in a consistent and effective manner the Joint Committee recommends that a special working group should be established to develop a blueprint for the national roll-out of RJ services. This working group should include primary stakeholders in criminal justice including judges, Gardai, probation officers, victim support groups as well as academics and other practitioners with an interest in criminal justice. The group should explore the various approaches to RJ, with a view to deciding on a strategy which, in line with best-practice, would best suit the Irish culture and have the optimum chance of success.

Pertinent procedural issues such as the reliance on volunteers, levels of training, the kinds of offences that can be handled by RJ and the extent of victim involvement should be considered in setting out a national strategy.

In addition, the Committee recommends that a one size fits all approach to RJ would not suitable. Any statutory guidelines developed should be flexible given the diversity of factors which can arise in different locations.

Mr. Horgan informed the committee that such a working group has already been suggested to the Department of Justice:

“It has been suggested to the Minister (for Justice, Equality and Law Reform) that he would commission a working group to review RJ models both in Ireland and internationally and generate proposals for development. A cross-sectoral group, incorporating practitioners, managers and academics, should help to build confidence in RJ as the basis for viable community sanctions.”

The Committee recommends that the working group should be established by the Department as a priority initiative.

Recommendation 6. The working group should consider the expansion of existing criminal justice programmes (including formal cautioning, family conferencing and community service) to include RJ elements for adult offenders.

An efficient means of extending RJ practices in Ireland may be to introduce restorative elements to existing schemes within the Irish criminal justice system. For example, a formal adult cautioning scheme was introduced by An Garda Siochana in February 2006. As was the case in the expansion of the GJDP following publication of the Children Act 2001, it is recommended that restorative elements, such as VOM and conferencing, should be added to the formal cautioning scheme for adult offenders. In response to a question from Deputy O’Keeffe, Mr. Crummey, Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Siochana told the Committee:

“We have no objection in principle to (the GJDP) being extended to the adult community. Gardai caution adults for minor offences every day of the week. We do not have any principled objection to bringing them into the formal arena. It is most likely the way the scheme will develop.

Similarly there is scope for extending the remit of court-referred conferencing, currently operated by the Probation Service, to include adults and for applying the principles of RJ in community service orders. Mr. Horgan told the Joint Committee that the Probation Service is already committed to expanding its RJ activities:

“One of the strategic goals for our plan for 2006 and 2007 is to further develop RJ models and reform and revitalise our delivery of community service. To this end we will plan and develop more focused and dedicated programmes, as and where appropriate, particularly into identified hub areas.”

While it is important to recognise that these options will have significant resource implications this form of expansion is efficient in making use of existing structures and is likely to make RJ more readily available at different points of the criminal justice system.

Recommendation 7. Efforts should be made to foster awareness of Restorative Justice Programmes amongst members of the Judiciary and other professionals in the criminal justice system. Members of the judiciary must play their role by engaging with the services that have been established.

As discussed in Section F, RJ programmes in Ireland have struggled to encourage greater referral rates from judges. The Joint Committee was informed that a major impediment to RJ programmes in Ireland has been a lack of awareness and interest amongst members of the judiciary as well as solicitors and other legal professionals. Deputy O’Keeffe noted that, for the NCRP and Tallaght projects:

“The enthusiastic involvement of the judges in the areas concerned appears to be essential. Judge Michael Reilly was one of the people who stimulated the project in Nenagh. Judge James Paul McDonnell appears to be enthusiastic in the Tallaght area.”

The gap between actual and potential use of these services reflects the limited understanding by many representatives of the criminal justice system of the role RJ can play. Deputy Hoctor spoke of the need for more judges to become actively involved in supporting RJ practices:

“otherwise there is a fear that judges who are involved will be left with such projects as a good working concept, which are excellent on the ground but not spreading at the rate they should throughout the country.”

Deputy Hoctor commented at the Committee’s meeting on 6th December:

“Money would be wisely spent on an awareness and promotion campaign among the Judiciary, the members of which appear to be slow and unwilling to engage in restorative justice projects. The Nenagh project is funded at a cost of €40,000 per year, with great credit due to the probation and welfare service. The cost of keeping one prisoner in jail is up to €70,000 or €80,000 per year. It is a valuable project initiated by a local judge and through which many people have rebuilt their lives. Other judges should take a leaf out of this book.”

O’Dywer34 commented that:

“It is particularly challenging to get judges to think automatically about mediation as an option when they are considering cases. There is a need for an individual or agency to champion the mediation cause.”

The success of RJ programmes in most European countries depends largely on the co-operation of legal practitioners35. In order for such programmes to succeed, effort must be taken to raise the profile of RJ amongst professionals in the criminal justice system. This co-operation is important for the selection and referral of suitable cases, for taking into account the results of RJ practices and for safeguarding the necessary legal rights of the parties. While the provision of legislation will go a long way to increasing awareness amongst the judiciary, a crucial step in this regard will also be to ensure that members of the judiciary are kept informed of best-practice in RJ. The Joint Committee advocates the development of a short training programme that would help judges to start seeing RJ as an option and instruct them in ways to integrate it into their daily work.

Equally, the Joint Committee recognises that the engagement of judges cannot be expected without the implementation of an effective RJ programme that can earn the confidence of stakeholders in criminal justice. As such the Oireachtas must play a role in passing legislation to support RJ practices and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform must play its role in ensuring correct implementation, adherence to process values and provision of adequate resources. In turn however, members of the judiciary must play their role by engaging with the services that have been established.

Recommendation 8. In order to increase awareness and maximise the benefit to victims, RJ services should collaborate with Victim Support agencies.

This report has highlighted the strong international evidence that victims are the primary beneficiaries of an RJ approach. Victim ratings of satisfaction and fairness are consistently higher following a criminal justice process that is primarily restorative in nature. Therefore, ensuring victim involvement is a key area of concern for many RJ programmes. Kieran O’Dwyer emphasised to the Joint Committee that:

“Victims cannot be taken for granted and there is a need to take time in approaching, understanding and supporting them. One encounters in international literature areas where participation and satisfaction rates were often low, but this was often due to clumsy approaches or the oversight of sometimes not inviting their participation.”

At present there are a number of agencies and voluntary groups that provide vital emotional and practical support to victims of crime in Ireland. In March 2005, a Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime was set up to enhance the coordination of services across these different agencies and voluntary groups in order to ensure that the services are widely available. In order to increase awareness of RJ programmes and to maximise the participation of victims, the Joint Committee recommends that future and existing RJ programmes should establish ties to victim support groups.

Recommendation 9. Increased funding for Restorative Justice should be supported by the State as an investment in more progressive methods of dealing with the effects of crime.

In some cases, Restorative Justice programmes can provide a more cost effective and victim oriented approach. The Committee notes that:

The overall budget for the Prisons Service in 2006 is over €400 million

The current annual cost of a prison place is €90,90036

The recent study by the UCD Institute of Criminology has found

recidivism rates of 27% after 1 year, and 50% after 4 years

the vast majority of prisoners are young, unemployed, petty criminals rather than violent or gangland figures

the majority of prisoners, 56% are in jail for minor offences such as fine defaulting and motoring offences, spending less than 3 months behind bars

The current ratio of prison officers to prisoners in Ireland is among the highest in the EU

The direct State funding in 2005 to the two existing RJ programmes for adults (Tallaght and Nenagh) was €360,000.

There is clear scope to increase State funding for adult RJ programmes. RJ programmes are not cost neutral, and their impact on recidivism rates is unclear from international evidence. However the Committee is satisfied that a firm commitment by the State to incrementally introduce more RJ programmes is an investment with long term benefits to society.

10. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform should assess new ways of configuring and redeploying resources in the criminal justice area.

The recent research by the UCD Institute of Criminology37 (December 2006) presents important data for consideration by policy makers. In particular, the findings in relation to recidivism levels, and the number of persons imprisoned for non-payment of fines, indicate that a range of improved policy responses are required.

Among the measures that could be taken are:

the introduction of legislation to provide for alternatives for the enforcement of fines, leading to a significant reduction in those imprisoned for non payment

identifying cross-Departmental actions that can be taken to assist the re-integration of offenders

the expansion of public/private sector initiatives like the Linkage Programme by the BITCI (Business in the Community Ireland) which has seen 2,000 ex-offenders placed in education, training and employment since 2000, with 52% of those participating achieving full-time employment

increased research on sentencing, community sanctions and crime related issues to address the broad lack of adequate research

redeploying some of the prison staff resources which will arise from the introduction of new technology etc in prisons (ie the Minister informed the Committee at a meeting on 6th December that the more than 1:1 ratio in Mountjoy Prison could easily be reduced to 0.6 at Thornton Hall owing to different methods of handling offenders, supervision methods and security arrangements). Priority could be given towards restorative justice based programmes, particularly in the Probation and Welfare Service.

Recommendations of the Joint Committee:

Recommendation 1. Restorative Justice should be developed as a more regular feature of the Irish criminal justice system.

Recommendation 2. Existing Restorative Justice programmes for juvenile offenders should be supported. In particular, the Committee recommends an increase in the number of JLOs to ensure the national coverage of the GJDP.

Recommendation 3. Existing Restorative Justice Programmes (in Tallaght and Nenagh) for adult offenders should be given greater State support.

Recommendation 4. Restorative Justice practice for adult offenders should be provided for in legislation.

Recommendation 5. A cross-sectoral working group should be created by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to develop a national strategy for RJ that is based on international best-practice.

Recommendation 6. The working group should consider the expansion of existing criminal justice programmes (including formal cautioning, family conferencing and community service) to include RJ elements for adult offenders.

Recommendation 7. Efforts should be made to foster awareness of Restorative Justice Programmes amongst members of the Judiciary and other professionals in the criminal justice system. Members of the judiciary must play their role by engaging with the services that have been established.

Recommendation 8. In order to increase awareness and maximise the benefit to victims, RJ services should collaborate with Victim Support agencies.

Recommendation 9. Increased funding for Restorative Justice should be supported by the State as an investment in more progressive methods of dealing with the effects of crime.

Recommendation 10. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform should assess new ways of configuring and redeploying resources in the criminal justice area.

1 UCD Institute of Criminology, 2006, Irish Recidivism Study.

2 (See Appendix 2)

3 McCold, P. and Wachtel, T. (2002), “Restorative Justice Theory Validation” in E. Weitekamp and H-J Kerner eds, Restorative Justice: Theoretical Foundations.

4 Clements, J et al. (1999) Group Conferencing: Restorative Justice in Practice. Center for Restorative Justice and Mediation, Restorative Justice Consortium and Mediation, UK.

5 O’Dwyer et al, 2005: 41

6 UCD Institute of Criminology, 2006, Irish Recidivism Study. The research was funded by the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences and carried out in collaboration with the University of Missouri - St. Louis.

7 Marshall, T. F., 1999, Restorative Justice. An Overview. UK Home Office.

8 Morris, A., 2002, Critiquing the Critics: A brief response to Critics of Restorative Justice. British Journal of Criminology, 42: 596-615

9 Morris, A., 2002.

10 McCold, P. and Wachtel, T. (2002).

11 European Forum for Restorative Justice. For more information see:

12 Marshall, T. F., 1996, The evolution of restorative justice in Britain. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research.

McCold, P., 2000, Towards a mid-range theory of restorative criminal justice: a reply to the maximalist model, Contemporary Justice Review.

Morris, A. and Maxwell, G., 2001, eds., Restorative Justice for Juveniles, Oxford: Hart.

13 Williams, B. (2004) Recent UK legislation on Offenders and Victims of Crime: Restorative Justice or co-option? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the European Forum for Restorative Justice, Budapest 2004. For more information see:

14 Marshall, 1996; McCold, 2000; Morris and Maxwell, 2001. as above.

15Hartmann, A., 2006, Restorative Justice Services in Continental Europe. Presented at the National Conference of the Restorative Justice Services, Dublin on the 18th November 2006.

16 Mediation in penal matters - Recommendation No. R (99) 19 and explanatory memorandum (2000)

17 Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on The Standing of Victims in Criminal Proceedings (2001/220/JHA)

18 Hartman, A., 2006.

19 Sherman, Strang and Woods, 2000. Centre for Restorative Justice Research School of Social Sciences Australian National University.

20 Luke, G. and Lind, B., 2002, Reducing Juvenile Crime: Conferencing versus Court.

21 Latimer, J. and colleagues, 2001, The Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Practices: A Meta-Analysis.


23 Hartmann, 2006

24 Haley, J.O., 1994, “Victim-Offender Mediation: International Success”, The Ecology of Justice Journal.

25 McCold, P. and Wachtel, T., 2002.

26 O’Dwyer, 2003

27 O’Dwyer, K., 2001

28 Burke, M., 2006

29 NCRP Evaluation 2004.

30 Hartmann, 2006.

31 O’Dwyer (2001)

32 Mediation in penal matters - Recommendation No. R (99) 19 and explanatory memorandum (2000)

33 Council Framework Decision of 15 March 2001 on The Standing of Victims in Criminal Proceedings (2001/220/JHA)

34 O Dywer, 2001

35 Hartmann, 2006.

36 Irish Prison Services Annual Report 2005

37 UCD Institute of Criminology, December 2006, Irish Recidivism Study.