Written answers

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Restorative Justice

Photo of George LeeGeorge Lee (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Question 11: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding restorative justice within the criminal justice system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5732/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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There are two adult schemes currently operating in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary and in Tallaght, Dublin 24 which are funded by my Department, through the Probation Service and which operate on the principles of restorative justice with the twin aim of attempting to heal the harm done to victims and at the same time holding the offender accountable for his or her actions.

In the case of juveniles, restorative justice was introduced on a statutory basis for the first time in the Children Act 2001. There are two restorative justice initiatives provided for in the Act: A restorative conference or restorative caution included in the Garda Diversion Programme and a court-ordered restorative justice family conference delivered through the Probation Service.

The Garda Diversion Programme operates in accordance with Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, as amended, and under the general superintendence and control of the Garda Commissioner. The aim of the Diversion Programme is to deal with young people who offend, by way of administering a formal or informal caution, thus diverting the offender away from the courts and minimising the likelihood of further offending. The programme embraces, whenever possible, the principles of restorative justice and, at all times, it pays the highest regard to the needs of the victims. The programme has proven to be successful in diverting young persons away from crime by offering guidance and support to the young people and their families. This programme operates nationwide.

Family conferencing administered by the Probation Service at the request of the Courts under Sections 78 - 87 of the Children Act, 2001 is another restorative practice and is available on a national basis. A family conference is based on the principles of restorative justice. The aim of the family conference is to divert the young person, who has accepted responsibility for his or her behaviour, from Court, from conviction and custody and from committing further offences.

As the Deputy will be aware a National Commission on Restorative Justice chaired by Judge Mary Martin was asked to look at this whole area. The final report of the Commission was published on 17 December, 2009. Comprehensive information on the operation of Restorative Justice in this jurisdiction is contained in Chapter 3 of the Report. The report and its recommendations are currently being examined by my Department having regard to resource and funding implications and against the background of the range of other non-custodial measures available to the courts. I will be bringing my proposals to Government in due course.

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