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.