National Commission on Restorative Justice Established

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Michael McDowell, T.D. has today announced the establishment of a National Commission on Restorative Justice.  Reflecting the significance the Tanaiste attaches to this area he has appointed a distinguished District Court Judge, Judge Mary Martin, as full time Chairperson to head up the National Commission.

Announcing the Commission, the Tánaiste said that "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.   Restorative Justice puts the victim at the centre of the process.  I want to see how it can be expanded in Ireland with appropriate structures and a sound funding base. My Department, though the Probation Service, is currently funding two restorative justice projects in this jurisdiction, one in Nenagh and the other in Tallaght." 

Referring to the experience gleaned from how Restorative Justice is working elsewhere the Tánaiste said "While Restorative Justice is patently not suitable for all offences, the evidence shows that the system gives positive results and benefits for victims, positive results for communities in reducing offending and harm and also influences offenders in changing attitudes and behaviour."

The Tánaiste emphasised that while it will not replace the sanction of imprisonment for serious offences, Restorative Justice may provide a better mechanism to more clearly identify those who should be imprisoned and those who can make reparation without the need for a custodial sentence.

The other members of the National Commission are:

  • Senator Mary Henry;
  • Mr. David O'Donovan, Deputy Director, Probation Service;
  • Chief Superintendent Patrick Cregg, An Garda Síochána;
  • Mr. Eugene McCarthy;
  • Ms. Olive Caulfield, Northern Area Regional Manager, Courts Service; and
  • Mr. Ronan O'Neill, nominee of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Brian Fitzpatrick has been appointed as Director of the National Commission on Restorative Justice and a researcher is also to be assigned to support the work of the Commission.

The terms of reference are attached below. 

Concluding, the Tánaiste said that "the task of the National Commission was to determine how Restorative Justice can be brought into the mainstream of the Irish Criminal Justice system."


11 March 2007

 

Note for Editors


National Commission on Restorative Justice

Terms of Reference

To consider the application of the concept of restorative justice with regard to persons brought before the courts on criminal charges and to make recommendations as to its potential wider application in this jurisdiction including its possible application in the context of community courts and to this end:-

(a) to review the existing models of restorative justice in this jurisdiction in particular those involving the Probation Service and/or community based groups supported financially by public funds;

(b) to review contemporary developments in restorative justice in other jurisdictions;

(c) to seek the views of relevant bodies, interest groups and individuals;

(d) to consider the recommendations of the Report on Restorative Justice by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights (January 2007);

(e) to review, as far as practicable, the research based evidence and evaluation as to the effect of different restorative justice models, compared with other forms of court disposals, with regard to:

(i)   the views of and impact on victims,
(ii)  offenders and their rate of recidivism,
(iii)  its use as an alternative to imprisonment,
(iv)  cost,
(v)   the public interest, and
(vi)  the range of offences to which it is most applicable;

(f) to consider whether restorative justice models should be further developed in Ireland at a national level and if so to indicate:

(i)   which model or models would be most appropriate and cost effective in this jurisdiction,
(ii)  whether such models require or should have a statutory basis,
(iii)  the range of offences and courts to which it would be applicable,
(iv)  the role of the Courts, Probation Service and other key bodies,
(v)  an estimate of the number of offenders likely to be dealt with and the costs per annum, and
(vi)  the number of offenders likely to be diverted from a custodial sentence; and


to submit an interim report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform within six months of establishment with a final report to be submitted before the end of 2008.


Biographical details of the members of the National Commission on Restorative Justice

 

Judge Mary Martin

Judge Mary Martin obtained her BCL degree at the National University, Dublin in 1971 and qualified as a solicitor in 1972.  From 1972 to 1983 she practised in Criminal and Family Law.  She became a Judge of the District Court in November 1983 and has worked in the Kerry/Limerick and Laois /Offaly, Carlow/Kildare, Kilkenny/Tipperary Court Districts.

 

Mr. Eugene McCarthy 

Mr. McCarty is a graduate in Economics from Trinity College, Dublin, and the London School of Economics, where he was awarded a Doctorate in Economic Science. He was Deputy Director General of the Federation of Irish Employers, subsequently IBEC and was the first Chairman from the private sector of the Economic and Social Research Institute. He was also a member of Government Commissions on Public Service Pay, the Defence forces, and the Commission on Social Welfare and was a member of the National Economic and Social Council.

 

Senator Mary Henry M.D., M.A., DSc. (hc U.U.)

Senator Henry has been a member of Seanad Eireann for over fourteen years, representing Dublin University.  She has a long-time interest in health and justice issues.  She served as the first Chairman of the Irish Penal Reform Trust and is a patron of that organisation.  She was recently involved in the Opera Ireland production of La Boheme for which the inmates and staff of Mountjoy Prison in Dublin and Maiano Prison, Spoleto Italy, designed and made the sets and costumes.  She is a strong supporter of restorative justice and believes that it should be used rather than imprisonment where suitable.

 

Mr. David O'Donavan

Mr. O'Donovan joined the Probation Service in 1971 and over the years has worked in a variety of areas.  In 2002 he assumed responsibility for Financial Management and Corporate Services and in March 2004, he was appointed to act as Deputy to the Head of the Probation Service.  In June 2006 he was appointed to his present position as Deputy Director with responsibility for Research Training and Development.  He has participated in many European conferences and functions, representing the Probation Service/Department.  In 2001 he was elected to the Board of the C.E.P., an umbrella body for probation agencies across Europe, and was re-elected for a further term in 2004.

 

Chief Superintendent Patrick Cregg 

Currently Chief Superintendent of the Community Relations Department of An Garda Síochána, which includes among other areas, the National Juvenile Office which in turn operates the Garda Restorative Justice programme, the Youth Diversion Programmes Office, the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office (GRIO), Community Policing Programmes, Crime Call and the Schools Programmes.

He has formerly worked as Chief Superintendent, Crime Branch and as Head of the Management School at the Garda College in Templemore. He has taken a particular interest in policy-making - aspects of which are examined in Bachelor of Arts degrees in public sector management and police management which he holds.

 

Ms Olive Caulfield 

Ms. Caulfield is the manager of the Court Service's Northern Regional Office. She has
responsibility for courts offices in counties Louth, Leitrim, Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal.

 

Mr Ronan O'Neill

Mr O'Neill is a Principal Prosecution Solicitor in the Office of the DPP. He is currently the head of the Circuit Court Section. Prior to that he worked for eight years in the District Court Section of the Office of the DPP.

 

Restorative Justice Projects operating in Ireland

 

Nenagh Community Reparation Project

The Nenagh Community Reparation Project is an initiative run in partnership with the Probation Service.  It is managed by a local committee representing different community interests, and was set up in 1999 as a pilot project.

Its aim is to increase the involvement of the community in positive activity designed to reduce crime.  The objective is to minimise repeat offending by confronting the offender with the impact of the crime on others and in particular, the victim.

The project provides an alternative method of dealing with some offenders outside the normal avenues of the Criminal Justice System and allows both the community and the victim to have a say in how these offenders are dealt with.  It aims to reduce repeat offending by challenging offenders to face up to and accept responsibility for their criminal actions.  Judge Michael Reilly of the District Court was instrumental in the introduction of this initiative following his viewing of a similar type of project in operation in New Zealand.

Offenders may be referred to the project from the Courts following the establishment of their guilt.  Offenders who are referred meet with a panel comprising the Project co-ordinator and representatives from the community and the Gardaí.  The victim and any support people may also be in attendance at the meeting.  The purpose of this meeting is to give offenders an opportunity to admit to their guilt and to express remorse for their actions.  Offenders also agree to a contract at the meeting which aims to address the effects of the crime committed.  The contract is then referred to the Court who will normally adjourn the case for a specified period of time to allow the contract to be fulfilled.  Following this period, the Court will deal with the charges depending on how successfully the contract has been completed.

A total of 63 offenders have been referred to the project in the period June, 1999 to September, 2004 - of that 92% were first time offenders and 84% did not re-offend. On average, 12-13 offenders are referred to the project annually, but they have the infrastructure to deal with up to 30 cases per year.  The Nenagh Project receives its funding from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform through the Probation Service.  In the current year (2007), it will receive a grant of 40,000 Euro.

 

Tallaght Restorative Justice Services 

The Victim/Offender Mediation Service started in Tallaght in May 2000 and has now evolved into the Restorative Justice Services.  The Department, through the Probation Service, has been providing funds to the project since 2000.  In the current year (2007), the project will receive -320,000 by way of current funding.

This Project encourages and facilitates both victims and offenders to participate in a mediation process, leading in most cases to an agreed contract which can include personal commitments and reparation by the offender.  They have pioneered the Offender Reparation Programme, whereby persons convicted of offences agree a programme of reflection, reparation and restoration.  This is an innovative approach and the work done is documented to the court and their final penalty is commensurably lenient. 

The key areas of work undertaken are under two particular schemes namely, (i) the offender Reparation Programme and (ii) the Victim /Offender Mediation scheme. Statistics for 2005 show that of the 100 cases referred to the Reparation Programme in that year, 97 offenders successfully completed their contracts.