What is restorative justice?
The aim of restorative justice is to reduce the chance of the offender going on to commit further crime, and to reduce the level of trauma and desire for revenge for the victim.
Restorative justice takes the form of one or more conferences attended by the offender, the victim (or someone they have chosen to represent them) and any other approved people (such as community representatives or interpreters). The conference is run by a specially trained and suitably experienced facilitator (from an approved restorative justice provider) who will make sure the conversations stay on track and everyone at the conference feels safe and supported.
At a restorative justice conference everyone can talk openly and honestly about what happened and the victim can say how they were affected by the offending.
The victim and offender may decide to agree to a plan of action (“an agreement”) for the offender to complete to help them put right some of the harm caused. This might include an apology and perhaps reparation from the offender.
Visit the Victims Information website or call 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) for more information.
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When is restorative justice available?
Restorative justice can take place as part of Police Adult Diversion, before or after sentencing, or before they are released from prison. It might be recommended by the court judge, the offender may ask for it through their lawyer, or the victim can ask for it through the Police or Court Services.
In most cases restorative justice occurs before an offender is sentenced - this is called “pre-sentence restorative justice”.
The court will only consider a pre-sentence restorative justice conference if:
- the offender pleads guilty to, or is found guilty of, an offence that has affected a victim,
- both the offender and the victim agree to participate,
- restorative justice has not already taken place for the same offence, and
- a Ministry of Justice-approved restorative justice service is available. The restorative justice provider will then meet with the offender and the victim separately and decide whether restorative justice is appropriate.
The victim or the offender may choose to withdraw from a restorative justice process at any time. If this happens the restorative justice provider will tell the court that the process is not going ahead and the offender will then be sentenced.
Family violence and sexual offending cases are carefully assessed and managed by restorative justice providers who have established links to other specialist support services and treatment programmes.
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Who ensures that the offender will do what they agree to in the restorative justice conference?
The restorative justice provider doesn't have the authority to enforce an agreement made during the restorative justice conference. However they do report back to the court on the progress achieved, including what the offender has agreed to as their plan of action (such as payment of reparation).
When it is time for the offender to return to court for sentencing, the restorative justice provider will report to the court what happened at the conference and what was agreed to. The judge must take the report into account when sentencing the offender.
For example, if the offender had agreed to pay reparation to the victim and this is reported to the Court, the judge will decide whether payment of reparation will be made part of the sentence. If the judge includes reparation when sentencing the offender, and the offender fails to make payment within 28 days or according to the judge’s instructions, the court can take enforcement action to collect the outstanding amount.