What is restorative justice?
Restorative justice is a process for resolving crime that focuses on redressing the harm experienced by victims, while also holding the offender to account for what they have done.
The process involves the victim and the offender coming face-to-face at a meeting called a restorative justice conference. This conference allows the victim to express how the offending has affected them, and allows all the people present to acknowledge the harm that has been caused.
How can restorative justice help victims?
The restorative justice process’ primary aim is to redress the harm suffered by the victims as a result of the crime committed against them The process aims to give the victim an opportunity – in a controlled environment – to explain to the offender how the crime has impacted on their life.
Research shows that restorative justice can be very beneficial for victims, and can help with the often lengthy and painful process of moving forward after experiencing a crime.
The 2011 Ministry of Justice Restorative Justice Victim Satisfaction Survey found that a large majority of victims felt the restorative justice conference had been of benefit to them: 77 percent of victims were satisfied with the overall experience of restorative justice; 74 percent felt better after participating in the process; and 80 percent would recommend restorative justice to other victims in a similar situation.
What happens at the restorative justice conference?
There is no standardised process to outline how the conference should run but the intention is that the offender takes responsibility for their actions and apologises to the victim. The conference may conclude with the two parties discussing if there is anything the offender can do to work towards putting things right.
Often an agreement will be drafted after the conference. This agreement lists the actions or activities the offender has agreed to complete in order to take responsibility for his or her offending, including any action the offender will undertake to address the underlying causes for his or her offending.
How do I get involved?
Restorative justice is a completely voluntary process and will only go ahead if there is an identifiable victim, the offender has pleaded guilty to the offence and both parties agree to it.
Normally your victims advisor or lawyer will discuss the possibility of a restorative justice conference with you before the trial begins.
District Court cases that fulfil the restorative justice requirements will be referred for restorative justice consideration. Should you not wish to participate you can opt-out of the process by talking to your victims advisor, lawyer or restorative justice provider; it is completely voluntary and is based on informed consent.
Referral to restorative justice may also occur in other circumstances, including under the police diversion scheme and as a community referred sexual offending service.