What is restorative justice?

Suzanne Breen’s Tribune article yesterday held some shocking allegations about the complicity of individuals involved in restorative justice schemes in Belfast with serious (and decidedly non-political) crimes committed by individual paramilitaries. The issue challenges the very legitimacy of the idea of restorative justice. It may be time to track back and pick up Breige Gadd’s clear definition as to how it is intended to work:

Contrary to what you might have gathered from recent public debates, it has nothing to do with paramilitaries replacing the police in some areas. It has everything to do with courts, police and communities tackling crime in a new way. Our system of criminal justice is based on an adversarial model. The state prosecutes the accused. The accused defends himself. Both ‘sides’ present their evidence and the court, judge or jury decides on the basis of evidence presented whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. One side is necessarily pitted against the other and victims of crime, rather than being at the centre of the action, often feel left out of their own cases and allocated only a peripheral role as the presenter of evidence to seemingly belligerent legal experts. Furthermore, in the current criminal justice system the offender’s focus often is on getting ‘off’ and avoiding all responsibility for his/her actions.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Suzanne exposes the entire corrupt sham of so-called “restorative justice.” Breige Gadd’s “clear” definition is anything but clear and everything but practical. Restorative Justice, NI style, is about letting paramilitary vermin prey on their host community. It’s a great article by Suzanne and one can imagine a number of pollyanna’s closing their eyes and wishing, praying..,maybe even hoping it ain’t true. It is. Time to drop the restorative tag and just go for JUSTICE…although admittedly that’s a rare commodity here in this post “peace process” moral sewer……whoops….

  • Kelvin Doherty


    Your post illustrates that you really don’t understand what restorative justice actually is. You are totally pre occupied with having a pop at community based RJ schemes without taking a broader look at what RJ actually is.

    Most countries in europe ( also Australia and N Zealand )now have statutory rj schemes. The Youth Justice Agency in NI actually runs restorative programmes and are seen by many outside of NI as world leaders in what they do.

    People are realising that the conventional retributive system does not work for victims of crime never mind in reducing offending.

    Take a look at http://www.vaonline.org/restore , http://www.youth-justice-board.gov.uk, http://www.aic.gov.au/rjustice, http://www.irp.org

  • Mick Fealty

    Many thanks for the links Kelvin!