Oâ€™ Mahony opened by acknowledging the fact this is a topical debate and providing a background for the emergence of restorative justice. There has been a growth in the area of alternative dispute resolution as well as the increasing dissatisfaction of victims with the criminal justice system. Restorative justice (RJ) offers, perhaps, a more active role for victims, who for many years were alienated by the mainstream criminal justice system. Oâ€™ Mahony pointed out the various international attempts to make RJ more a part of criminal justice. An EU framework promoted mediation as advantageous and the UN Vienna Declaration also committed members to implement RJ.
He then attempted to define RJ. This he pointed out is not an easy task as there are in existence many varying definitions of RJ. Many of these definitions are too broad and vague. The danger of this according to Oâ€™ Mahony is that RJ may mean all things to all people, in other words nobody knows exactly what it is all about. He set about highlighting some of the varying definitions in a bid to bring some clarity to the purpose of RJ.
The implementation of RJ programmes may vary greatly; different programmes attempt to achieve different things. Some may be special to a particular locality such as the work done with the Loyalists in
RJ may contrast in many ways to the criminal justice system. The state takes the conflict away from the key people in the offence, whereas in RJ these people are at the heart of any programme. Criminal justice seeks to be cold and impartial. Punishment is objective and retrospective, whereas RJ will often look at the potential to repair future harm. Criminal justice is effective at fact finding but RJ is all about dealing with the aftermath of the facts.
Oâ€™ Mahony then went onto examine some of the main types of RJ. First he examined victim-offender mediation. This is marginalised from criminal justice. It began in
The next example of RJ was police-led restorative conferencing. Similar initiatives to this are available in
He concluded by saying that RJ is no panacea but the process has some distinct advantages. It needs to be managed carefully. It has the potential to be harmful if it is not operated effectively. RJ and criminal justice can be brought together with effective safeguards and if managed properly.
Summary provided by LL.M (Criminal Justice) candidate, John Cronin.