Restorative justice success attracts international interest

Canadian experts have tapped New Zealand’s know-how in restorative justice as they explore ways to improve their country’s criminal justice system.

Hayley MacKenzie, from the Ministry of Justice’s Provider and Community Services team, was invited to present at the Ninth National Symposium on Reinventing Criminal Justice in Vancouver, Canada in January.

“The organisers and the audience were keen to learn what we’d done with restorative justice in New Zealand and how we did it,” Hayley says.  “They wanted to work with us and learn from our experiences as they design and develop their own system.”

In restorative justice (external link) , victims and offenders meet face-to-face with the support of a trained facilitator. The meetings provide an opportunity for victims to tell offenders how the crime affected them, and for offenders to take personal responsibility for their actions. The process only takes place with the consent of both the victim and the offender.

In her presentation, Hayley shared the history of restorative justice in New Zealand, and talked about the legislation, research and service delivery standards that support the system and have helped deliver good results.

For example, data shows (external link) restorative justice lowers reoffending rates and a large majority of victims are satisfied with the conference they attended.

“The delegates were impressed with the positive outcomes we’d achieved and really saw New Zealand as a world leader in restorative justice,” says Hayley.

“The conference was well supported by all sectors of the Canadian criminal justice system, and everyone was keen to discuss some of the problems their system faces and changes that might improve the delivery of justice services.

“They told me how worthwhile it was to hear about New Zealand’s experiences first hand,” says Hayley. 

The symposium was organised by the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy (external link) , an independent international institute based in Vancouver, Canada.

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