Justice Minister Naomi Long has formally announced the first ever Adult Restorative Justice Strategy for Northern Ireland.
The strategy, which runs from 2022-2027, has been developed with statutory, voluntary and community sector partners.
It aims to better meet the needs of, and provide redress for the harm caused to victims of crime, and to provide a positive alternative to traditional justice responses when offending occurs.
Launching the strategy, Naomi Long said:
“The use of restorative approaches in our youth justice system in Northern Ireland has long been a great success, but there has been no overarching strategic approach for its use in the adult system until now. A public consultation held in 2020 showed there was considerable support for the development of an Adult Strategy and my Department has now delivered on this.
“Our vision is that the use of restorative justice becomes second nature across the criminal justice system. We know from experience both here and elsewhere that when delivered professionally and sensitively, the restorative approach can bring significant benefits for the victim of crime, for individuals who have offended, and for families and communities.”
Alongside the strategy, a multi-year action plan for implementation of the key priorities identified through the consultation process has also been developed.
The Minister added:
“The Strategy and accompanying Action Plan provide an opportunity for the development and implementation of restorative approaches across the whole of the justice system, including its incorporation into formal court sanctions. Victim Support NI will be working with us to look at developing victim-initiated pathways to promote and encourage victims’ engagement in the process.”
Work to deliver on the strategy will also incorporate a number of recommendations made by two Judge-led reviews: Judge Marrinan’s review on Hate Crime Legislation and Sir John Gillen’s review of the Law and Procedures in Serious Sexual Offences in Northern Ireland, both of which proposed that the use of restorative justice should be explored to improve outcomes for victims of such crimes.
A public consultation on the development of an Adult Restorative Justice Strategy for Northern Ireland was held in 2020, with overwhelmingly positive support for the proposal. A clear view emerged that any such Strategy should place victims front and centre and develop appropriate structures and opportunities to allow victims to be involved, whether directly or indirectly, in the criminal justice system and in decisions which affect them. The work should also establish positive ways of dealing with crime and offending which reduces future harm, and improve outcomes for all those affected by offending behaviour, whether victims, offenders, families or communities.
The Adult Restorative Justice Strategy sets out a comprehensive and strategic approach to the use of restorative justice in all aspects and at all stages of the adult criminal justice system. It examines what restorative justice is, how it has developed in Northern Ireland to date, and how it might be embedded as a key principle in our adult criminal justice system based on evidence of its positive impact here and in other jurisdictions.
The Strategy and Action Plan has been developed in partnership with PPS, PSNI, PBNI, NIPS, YJA, Victim Support NI, Community Restorative Justice Ireland, Northern Ireland Alternatives and the Restorative Justice Forum.
To view Minister Long’s launch of the Adult Restorative Justice Strategy for NI, please click here.
To download the Adult Restorative Justice Strategy, please click here.