Restorative justice caseload still well below pre-pandemic levels

Restorative justice caseload still well below pre-pandemic levels

Dr Ian Marder

Restorative justice has still not recovered from a “collapse in referrals” during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to researchers.

Annual data published today by the Restorative Justice: Strategies for Change (RJS4C) research project shows that the restorative justice caseload remained well below pre-pandemic levels in 2023, despite the full unwinding of pandemic restrictions.

There were a total of 447 referrals in 2023, compared to 721 in 2019, 340 in 2020, 395 in 2021, and 413 in 2022. At least 83 cases involving some form of victim-offender dialogue were completed in 2023.

Dr Ian Marder, who researches restorative practices in criminal justice at Maynooth University, said: “This means that the collapse in referrals that we saw during Covid-19 pandemic has still not reversed, despite coming from a very low starting point in 2019.

“As such, we can conclude that restorative justice continued to play only a very marginal role in the criminal justice system in Ireland in 2023.”

However, he said there is “reason to believe that there may be an uptick in cases in 2024”, particularly as a result of new State funding for restorative justice.

A policy paper published by the Department of Justice last August said that restorative justice is not yet being used to its “maximum potential” in Ireland, and that its expansion could deliver “significant savings to the State”.

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