Restorative Justice

By Lucy Summers | Posted: Wednesday July 12, 2017

Raewyn Macfie, the Restorative Justice Otago Coordinator, describes the service and how it restores the harm done to victims of crime.

What is restorative justice?

Restorative justice refers to a process whereby those affected by an incident of wrong doing come together in a safe and controlled environment, to share their feelings and opinions truthfully and resolve together how best to deal with its aftermath. The process is called restorative because it is concerned primarily with restoring the dignity and wellbeing of those harmed by the incident.

What does Restorative Justice Otago do?

We have a contract with the Ministry of Justice to provide restorative justice services to the Dunedin and Alexandra Courts of Law. When an offender has pleaded guilty or been found guilty in court, a judge decides if restorative justice should be explored. It is a voluntary process for both the offender and the victim. If the offender is willing to take part, the case will be assessed to see if it is suited to restorative justice. Then the victim will be contacted to ask if they are interested in talking about it with the facilitators. If a meeting goes ahead, the victim has the opportunity to tell the offender how the crime has affected them, and the offender can take responsibility for the offending. It allows for discussion on how the harm can be put right, or to find ways to deal with the effects of the crime.

The facilitator writes a report describing what happened at the conference and any agreements made. A copy of this report is sent to the judge before the offender is sentenced so that the judge can decide whether to include any agreements made at the conference as part of the offender’s sentence.

We receive between 600 and 700 referrals each year, with approximately one quarter of these proceeding to a meeting.

Comments from victims who have participated in 2017:

• “Impressed, helped us, certainly helped.”

• “Couldn’t have wished for better facilitators.”

• “The process was done with compassion and was 100%.”

• “Couldn’t have been happier - it did wonders for the offender too.”

• “Needs to be used more. Helps families a lot.”

Comment from an offender:

“It was one of those things you have to do. It was horrible, but good for everyone to get things off their chest.”

Comments from lawyers and judges reported in Court news:

• “The results of restorative justice could only be described as outstanding.”

• “It never ceased to amaze him how cathartic restorative justice meetings could be for all parties.”

• “Very rare to see a victim – out of the goodness of his heart – offer to teach an offender some skills.”

• “His remorse came through in the restorative justice conference. The victim was magnanimous and did not want him to go to prison… the judge noted restorative justice had been ‘clearly positive’ for the victim.”

• “Restorative Justice Otago had gone to some lengths to bring the parties together to understand not only what had happened, but its effect.”

• “It probably underscores one of the real benefits of restorative justice; where they can see you face-to-face and see perhaps you’re a real person and not some imaginary figure who might come back and have another crack,” the judge said.

National survey results:

Overall, respondents’ views of restorative justice were largely positive, with 84% satisfied with the restorative justice conference they attended and 80% satisfied with their overall experience of restorative justice. 81% would recommend restorative justice to others in a similar situation. 64% of respondents said that restorative justice made them feel better.

Restorative justice reduces crime and re-offending. Data about restorative justice cases and re-offending rates from 2008 to 2013 shows that, on average, offenders who participated in restorative justice conferences committed 26% fewer offences per person than comparable offenders in the following 12 months.

To find out more about our Restorative Justice services, please call 0800 FAM CARE or 03 477 0801 or email us . Please note all referrals come through the court system.