Guidelines for restorative justice…

CHUCK Feeny‘s bankrolling of some community restorative justice schemes that refuse to co-operate with the police is expected to run out in the spring. However, Government draft guidelines to be published today will propose making future State funding for these schemes dependent upon police supervision and sharing information with the police. The ‘guidelines’, even when finalised, can be ignored by CRJ… but at a price. The Sunday Times has predicted some of the Government proposals:

An independent body, with police input, is to be set up to select and vet applicants to operate the schemes. Those involved in organised crime or paramilitary activity will be barred. Former prisoners may be allowed to take part.

The schemes will not be allowed to decide the guilt or innocence of suspected offenders and will not be allowed to investigate crimes.

The decision to attach strings to the money will be a blow to Sinn Fein, which had argued that restorative justice should provide a community alternative to the formal criminal justice system. Paramilitary groups often tell those convicted of offences by their kangaroo courts to go to CRJ as an alternative to being beaten or shot. Under the new guidelines such threats will have to be reported to the police.

Meanwhile, today’s Guardian reports:

The volunteers and staff who run Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) stand accused by other critics of operating an alternative policing system promoting republican interests. The future of these pioneering schemes, which sprang up across Northern Ireland after the IRA ceasefire, could be decided today when the government publishes draft guidelines about their conduct.

The chief achievement of CRJ, which started in 1999, is that, in close negotiation with the IRA, it helped break the grim repetition of punishment beatings and kneecappings by the Provisionals. Police figures show that in the last six months there were 54 punishment shootings in Northern Ireland – 50 by loyalist groups, four by republicans. The republican category includes those carried out by dissident groups not on ceasefire.

  • Pete Baker

    Worthwhile adding a reminder of what David Hanson said, at the start of November in a written statement to the House of Commons, about those guidelines, Gonzo.

    As previously noted here on Slugger

  • Kelvin Doherty

    Just read the guidelines. In effect it would probably mean that a statutory agency (Youth Justice Agency ) would sanction which cases CRJ or Alternatives would take and feed any information eg outcome of the case to PSNI for their records. I can’t see CRJ signing up to this.

  • JD

    They would also mean that if the case involved a minor crime that the guilty party would have to supply a DNA sample and their fingerprints. Not a condition that is likely to encourage a successful mediation.

    These guidelines were erected as political bargaining tool with a clear implication that it is CRJs role to deliver republicans into policing. This is not the case and the NIO would be better employed in sorting policing out ie. taking themselves out of the equation, that erecting funding hurdles. CRJ is a largely voluntary organisation, so my guess is that they will now become an exclusively voluntary organisation.

  • Kelvin Doherty

    JD

    Yeah I kinda agree that RJ could wrongly be used as a bargaining tool to get Republicans on board with policing. If this is the case then it’s not a very subtle approach. Anyway, Restorative Justice should not be a replacement for accountable policing. They are two separate issues

  • Terry Doherty

    Kelvin, as someone who lives in an area where there exists a successful CRJ scheme, and one which i support, I agree it is no alternative to an acceptable policing service. They are seperate issues and efforts to combine the two miss the point.

    CRJ works on its own merits and in its own right. People choose to engage with it and always have the option of opting out.

  • “Police figures show that in the last six months there were 54 punishment shootings in Northern Ireland – 50 by loyalist groups, four by republicans. The republican category includes those carried out by dissident groups not on ceasefire.”
    What were the comments earlier this year?
    SF must rid itself of all criminal and paramilitary activity.
    What a great result for Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams
    I wonder if ATW will run this story!