The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D. has today published the Final Report from the National Commission on Restorative Justice.

Publishing the report, Minister Ahern said: "It examines the nature and application of restorative justice and its relevance in the Irish Criminal Justice System and makes recommendations for the use of restorative justice on a national basis. I welcome the report and will set about examining it in the context of the White Paper on Crime which is looking at the use of custodial and non-custodial sanctions".

The report - drawn up under the chairmanship of Judge Mary Martin - says that the implementation of Restorative Justice on a nationwide basis would make a positive contribution to the lives of all citizens. Victims, offenders, their families and communities can benefit from a new approach to criminal justice sanctions.

The report describes Restorative Justice as an "invaluable cost effective" option for the criminal justice system. The report says that costs of running such a programme - a pilot project cost €3,250 per adult - compares with €97,700 annually for a prisoner in detention. The report estimates annual savings of up to €8.3 million can be made in prison placement through use of Restorative Justice and suggests expansion nationwide of the two trial projects in Tallaght and Nenagh.

It recommends that Restorative Justice should be applied in respect of persons before the District and Circuit Criminal Courts on criminal charges and target cases of up to three years imprisonment. The report states: "It will provide a real prospect of diverting some offenders from a custodial sentence  as well as deflecting them from committing further serious criminal acts.

But the report rules out use of restorative justice being utilised initially in respect of serious crime, such as domestic violence and sexual assault. It would never apply in instances of rape and murder.

Minister Ahern thanked Judge Mary Martin and the other members of the Commission for their work on the report. "We need to be responsive to the needs of victims and use the criminal justice resources effectively to provide protection, redress and rehabilitation. Ultimately, whatever route we travel we must ensure that those who offend face the full rigours of the law and victims remain at the forefront in the justice system. The experience elsewhere and from the two pilot projects indicate that Restorative Justice serves as a real alternative to locking offenders up, reduces reoffending and allows victims a sense that they are at the centre of the justice system."

"I know some people will argue that imprisonment is the best solution for offenders but the report reveals that those who commit crime do not see facing their victims as an easy option. In fact, it was found that facing the victim is a more difficult and emotional experience than the traditional court process."

The report is available on the Department’s website 

17 December 2009 

Editor's Note:

Restorative justice is a victim and community oriented approach which requires the perpetrator to face up to the harm he or she has caused and repair or make good the damage done. The victim is placed at the centre of the process.