57. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the system of restorative justice which was piloted in areas of the State has been considered for expansion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51702/17]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Probation Service plays a key role in the delivery of restorative justice as part of its overall mission of reducing reoffending and further victimisation in our communities. Referrals for restorative justice interventions are provided post-conviction, within the parameters of assessment and court orders, including community and prison based actions.
The Probation Service, through my Department, allocates funding to a range of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) to support its work and mission. In particular two Community Based Organisations receive funding to deliver restorative justice programmes and interventions for adult offenders. These are “Restorative Justice Services”, which is based in Tallaght, and “Restorative Justice in the Community”, which is based in Nenagh. Both provide two models of restorative justice – the offender reparation panel and victim offender mediation services.
In addition, bespoke restorative justice interventions are also available from Probation Officers on a national basis, in particular where a Court has requested an assessment for restorative justice engagement. The Probation Service staff receive accredited training on restorative justice practice and these interventions are bespoke in that they may include direct victim offender mediation, shuttle mediation, acts of community reparation or victim awareness work with the offenders.
The Probation Service Restorative Justice Strategy, published in November 2013, entitled “Repairing the Harm: A Victim Sensitive Response to Offending”, provides a framework for informed, effective and integrated restorative justice practice. The Strategy builds on previous work in this area and focuses on the further development of evidence informed interventions, which engage victims, offenders and the community in addressing the consequences of crime.
An Implementation Plan for this Strategy was put in place by the Probation Service in 2014. It sets out the goals and related actions for four distinct restorative justice models, which complement and support court ordered sanctions. These models include Victim Offender Mediation, Family Group Conferencing, Reparation panels and Support Circles.
The Deputy may be aware that extending the use of restorative justice programmes is also a recommendation of the Penal Policy Review Group, whose report was submitted to Government by the then Minister for Justice & Equality in November 2014. An Implementation Group is currently overseeing the implementation of these recommendations. Its fourth report (May 2017), is available on my Department’s website at the following link:
In addition, Section 26 of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 gives effect to the restorative justice provisions contained in the 2012 European Directive on establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. It outlines very clearly the measures to be taken to ensure that victims who choose to participate in a restorative justice scheme have access to safe and competent services.