One of the main goals of the Probation Service is to 'make good' the harm caused by crime. Restorative Justice responds to that goal by giving victims the opportunity to meet or communicate with the offender to describe and explain exactly how the crime has affected them.
Restorative Justice began to be used in its current form in Ireland in 2009, when the National Commission on Restorative Justice expressed the view in a report to the Minister for Justice and Equality that victims, offenders, their families and their communities could all benefit from a restorative approach to criminal behaviour and recommended wider implementation.
Its aim is to help offenders to realise that their activities hurt others - and that they are responsible for, and can be held accountable for their choices and actions. Ultimately, it enables people to think about how they behave with others and work out how best to prevent harm and conflict.
How does it work? The process takes the form of a meeting between victim, offender and mediator and sometimes relevant others - with the victim telling his/her story so that the offender can address the real consequences of crime - and to repair as much as possible the harm done by it.
By encouraging the offender to confront the reality of their actions head on, it can help in the process of rehabilitation which moves us closer to our ultimate goal of creating safer communities. It should be seen as complementing rather than replacing existing sanctions/interventions.
It is a central principle of the Probation Service that Restorative Justice should only be used when it is appropriate to the needs of both the offender and the victim. Restorative Conferences may take place as part of a programme of supervision
The Probation Service has a strategy which supports the use of Restorative Justice-based methods of tackling offending behaviour:
The use of Restorative Justice by the Probation Service is probably clearest in the Family Conference setting. These conferences are ordered by the Courts in the case of Young Offenders and organised by us. Under the programme, the victim, the young offender and the offender’s family come together in an agreed location to talk about the offences and explore ways that the offender can take responsibility and make some kind of amends.
Family conferences are facilitated by Probation Officers. The legal basis for this is Section 78, Children Act, 2001.
While Restorative Justice models are not included in any other legislation, the Court may request that the Probation Service make contact with the victim, if the victim agrees to this, with a view to mediation.
"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." - Michael McDowell, former Attorney General
There are two other restorative justice strategies the Probation Service uses: Offender Reparation Panels and Victim Offender Mediation.
1. Offender Reparation Panels: These are managed by community projects and funded by the Probation Service. The panels bring together the offender, representatives from the community, the Probation Service and An Garda Síochána in an agreed place to talk about the effects of the harm caused. After this discussion and paying attention to the victim's perspective, a reparation agreement will be implemented. District Courts in the relevant geographical areas refer cases, after conviction, for participation in the panels.
2. Victim Offender Mediation (VOM): This is a process which provides an opportunity for victims and offenders to meet in a safe, controlled setting, assisted by a trained mediator. After preparing for the meeting independently with each party, the mediator facilitates a discussion between the victim and offender for the purpose of addressing/repairing the harm caused. The Court may request Victim Offender Mediation post-sentence, but participation of the service user is voluntary.
Our Victim Services Team will listen effectively to victim requests for a restorative justice intervention. Victims are also entitled to register with the Irish Prison Service and to contact them about their case and can be given a Victim Liaison Officer. For more information on Victim Liaison: Victim Liaison Service
For victims of sexual violence, the VOM model pays particular attention to the fact that victims have been exposed to sexual violence and its related impact.
New Cross European Venture: June 2019
In collaboration with nine other European countries, Ireland is participating in a new cross European venture entitled Restorative Justice: Strategies for Change. The purpose of the project is twofold
to contribute towards refocusing European criminal justice systems, agencies, policies and practices around restorative principles and processes: and
to determine how the Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec (2018) concerning restorative justice in criminal matters could be used to support this work.
Please Click Here for the first output from the four year project. The purpose of the strategy is to help embed restorative justice and restorative practices within the Irish criminal justice system, building on existing practices and stimulating new work to fill gaps in policy and practice.
Restorative Justice Services (RJS)
Developed in partnership with the Probation Service and the local community, RJS provides a range of restorative justice programmes to Courts, the Probation Service and the wider community in pre and post sentence interventions.
Village Green, Tallaght, Dublin 2
Phone: 01 451 5022 Fax: 01 451 5025
Website: Restorative Justice Services
As with all aspects of the Probation Service's work, Restorative Justice is an approach undertaken in cooperation with a variety of stakeholders.
For more information
Restorative Justice Services
International Restorative Justice Links