While SST believes that there is a place for Restorative Justice in the Justice System, there are some caveats.
- It should be victim driven, rather than offender driven, and focus on the offender having an obligation to their victim to try and repair the harm done by their crime.
- It should always take place post-sentence rather than pre-sentence, and therefore will not be taken into consideration as part of sentencing, and cannot be rushed through prior to sentencing just to earn a sentence reduction.
- Restorative Justice meetings are combined with and only occur in conjunction with rehabilitation programmes at the end of a sentence.
- It has no influence on parole hearings – no reports are `submitted to the parole board regarding restorative justice meeting outcomes when considering release.
- No person with a serious criminal record should work in Restorative Justice as a facilitator or in any other voluntary or paid capacity. Everybody must be screened and full Police checks carried out, along with mandatory training.
All of the above are characteristics of the very successful and highly regarded Restorative Justice system in New South Wales, which has not been plagued with some of the problems experienced here in NZ. For example – click here
Difficulties associated with pre-sentencing restorative justice were noted by Judge Fred McElrea in a paper presented at the 11th Annual Restorative Justice conference in September 2005
Of course the role of the victim is at the heart of restorative justice. The constant tussle has been to overcome the inherent bias towards offender’s interests in the mainstream system….However, so long as restorative justice is tied to sentencing, it cannot be victim driven.
We believe that in 99% of cases, Restorative Justice should only apply in situations where it is possible for the victim to have restored to them whatever they may have lost as a result of the offence eg: the theft of a bicycle or a TV or damage to a mailbox or car. In the case of serious violent and sexual crimes, obviously no person or agency can restore life, nor can they remove the major psychological damage resulting from offences such as rape or a serious assault. For this reason we believe that restorative justice is inappropriate for violent offences, as the losses are primarily those of peace of mind and confidence in being able to go about one’s lawful business safely, rather than direct financial losses. There are often also losses that are of a medical nature, also unlikely to be able to be restored by an offender.
Only if a victim explicitly requests restorative justice should it ever be applied to violent offenders.