Expansion of restorative justice to deliver ‘significant savings’

Expansion of restorative justice to deliver 'significant savings'

Restorative justice is not yet being used to its “maximum potential” in Ireland and its expansion could deliver “significant savings to the State”, according to a new government policy paper.

In Irish law, restorative justice is defined as any scheme through which, with the consent of each party, a victim and an offender or alleged offender engage with one another to resolve, with the assistance of an impartial third party, matters arising from the relevant offence or alleged offence.

A new policy paper titled Promoting and supporting the provision of Restorative Justice at all stages of the criminal justice system explores the use of restorative justice in Ireland and sets out the government’s plan to increase current levels of provision.

The government has opted to strengthen existing capabilities within current structures rather than establishing a new national delivery service or agency.

The most recent figures, prepared by Restorative Justice Strategies for Change (RJS4C), estimated that the total number of restorative justice cases reported was 1,056 in 2020.

While initial figures have been produced for 2022, they do not yet include youth cautions. After removing youth cautions from the relevant previous year figures, while they show a slight increase for 2022 (413) based on 2021 (395) and 2020 (340), they are significantly down on the 2019 figure of 721.

James Browne, minister of state with responsibility for law reform and youth justice, said: “This policy paper is a culmination of a body of work carried out by the Department since the 2020 programme for government was published.

“At the same time, it signposts the next steps for continuing to ensure the safe and effective delivery of restorative justice initiatives, and sets out a roadmap for present and future attainment of the highest standards in this area.

“In light of the clear and positive benefits of restorative justice to victims, offenders, and the State, and mindful of the opportunity to increase current levels of provision of restorative justice services, the path forward that this paper identifies — to strengthen existing capabilities within current structures — provides the best prospect to make the most significant impact with the greatest efficiency.”

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