CRJ is not political

Sadly, we couldn’t find Tony O’Doherty’s interview with Daily Ireland on line, but Eammon Houston gives a flavour of the former Northern Ireland Soccer international’s work with CRJ in Derry.

“It is impossible to define a typical night. We don’t go into Creggan with a set agenda. We do a lot of outreach work, organise youth groups, soccer tournaments and local festivals. These are hardly the activities of some specialist paramilitary unit.” O’Doherty firmly believes that, even if the policing debate was resolved to every political party’s satisfaction, CRJ projects across the North will still have a major role to play in communities.

“No police service in the world could provide such a service – it is just impossible because of the resources it would take.” This argument is the one that O’Doherty focuses on most passionately.
“We are not trying to be the criminal justice system, or a new criminal justice system. We deliver social justice along the lines of the old Irish tribal systems with a strong ‘look after’ community view. This community view prevails in CRJ.”

  • Shore Road Resident

    By resorting to a reference from someone who, by their own phrase, has: “never been a member of a political party and has never been involved in a paramilitary group”, it’s my impression that Daily Ireland has effectively conceded the argument here.
    What would be wrong with someone being involved in CRJ who had been a member of a political party otherwise?

  • missfitz

    Two points here. What is being described in the article may be nice, may be useful and indeed it may be productive, but it isnt CRJ.

    The main tenet of RJ is to bring victim and perpetrator together, in a facilitated face to face meeting, and to explore the effect of the act on the victim. Through this process, the victim is re-empowered, and can input into the outome of justice they would like. In many cases, this can involve righting the wrong that was done, but some victims have requested that their perps return to school or complete a GCSE for their punishment.

    The article describes a series of actions that cover community mediation, youth work, family mediation and general cheerleading. Not one item appears to fall into the remit of CRJ.

    Surely it would be better for the overall debate if any scheme undertaken by whatever group is described for what it is.

    Finally, I am a wee bit disgusted by this whole debate now following that article. When I was part of a group that met with the Creggan CRJ, we did not meet the gentleman in the article, rather a leader of the programme. It seems to me that this spokeman was chosen for very political reasons, and that is quite cowardly on behalf of the Creggan group

  • Dualta

    Missfitz,
    An excellent post. CRJ is a party political organisation and for them to try to argue that it is not is like Margaret Thatcher trying to tell us that our troubles are not political, but mere criminality.

    CRJ as a general concept is a truly excellent means of dealing with crime and it is much, much better than physical violence, which is no cure at all.

    However, its application in our community outside of the judicial system is wrong. It is a sorry half-way house to the full embracing of the policing and judicial service which is beest equiped to deal with issues around crome and punishment.

    I don’t doubt Tony O’Doherty’s bona fides as a decent and pro-social man, but all of those in the CRJ and the broad Republican community must do what needs to be done and grab policing by the scruff shake it into shape, from within.

  • JD

    “The main tenet of RJ is to bring victim and perpetrator together, in a facilitated face to face meeting, and to explore the effect of the act on the victim.”

    Missfits,

    Incorrect, victim offender mediation is but one possible tenet of a restorative process. Restorative justice is about viewing an offence or crime in terms of harm done rather than in terms of who is to be punished and how hard. How the situation is restored to the satisfaction of the victim and the community can take many forms and processes. Restorative justice principles being applied in a community context is most advanced in the Irish context and some of the approaches taken are being viewed internationally, by experts in the field, as being extremely innovative and breaking new ground.

    I do not know who you met in Creggan but Tony Doherty is the leader of the project in that area and is probably one of the most respected CRJ volunteers in Derry.

    Dualta,

    The remaining difficulties over policing, particularly political policing are not for CRJ to sort, that is the job of their political masters. I have argued that even in an ideal policing environment, CRJ is successful because it is apart from the criminal justice system and it should remain so. Its independance from the formal system should be seen as no different than any other community or voluntary agency operating in the criminal justice arena such as NIACRO or the NI Madiation Network.

  • slug

    JD, thanks for explaining RJ. I am beginning to get an idea. But doesn’t it allow for punishment at all other than restoring things? And isn’t there a danger of putting pressure on the victim to accept leniency of treatment? I must say I am not really a fan of the overall idea, so at the least I would need compelling evidence that it actually worked.

  • JD

    Slug,

    One of the key elements of this system that is overlooked is the right of the victim to choose. In the first instance the victim only approaches CRJ if they have decided that the punitive route ie. the formal criminal justice system is not for them. Then, during the process of the victim is in control and makes decisions on what aspects of the resolution will bring a sense of justice to them, and that may take a wide variety of forms from a simple genuine apology through to financial restitution. These processes are not an easy option for offenders, I have witnessed offenders hoping for the formal system to come into to play rather than have to confront face to face the victims of their crimes. But the key concept is not in terms punishment but of harm created by any offence and how can that be restored.

    The evidence of it working is substantial, in projects in Derry the successful resolution rate sits at upwards of 75%, the formal system boasts a clear up rate of 15% and a successful prosecution rate of 2%, you do the maths.

  • Greg

    Tony O’Doherty – or Tony Doc as he is known locally – may be the public face of the CRJ in Creggan, but he is not its de facto leader as he is not in Sinn Fein. Go to Creggan and ask anyone you stop in the street how to get in touch with the CRJ and they will send you to Sinn Fein. Ask any of the young fellows who have been beaten by punishment squads and/or dealt with by the CRJ and they will tell you they are one and the same.

  • JD

    Greg,

    B*****ks, CRJ in Creggan operates out of the local community centre, ‘The Corn Beef Tin’ not any SF centre.

    “Ask any of the young fellows who have been beaten by punishment squads and/or dealt with by the CRJ and they will tell you they are one and the same.”

    Maybe they have a little bias, a bit like yourself. You should possibly go and speak to the many, many Creggan people who have approached CRJ and had their issues dealt with they may give you a more honest opinion.

    Tony Doc is the chairperson of the CRJ group in Creggan no one else, go and ask him also.

  • Yoda

    it’s my impression that Daily Ireland has effectively conceded the argument here

    …or else they are trying to show that the usual understanding of the issue is blinkered.

    However, its application in our community outside of the judicial system is wrong.

    Okay, but can you explain exactly why you think it is “wrong.”

    Restorative justice principles being applied in a community context is most advanced in the Irish context and some of the approaches taken are being viewed internationally, by experts in the field, as being extremely innovative and breaking new ground.

    Well said. It’s an exciting alternative, especially when one considers the juridical system’s focus on punishment permits it to make what are essentially extra-legal judgments about individuals.

    A lot of good work has been done in First Nations communities in Canada.

    As JD also said, the choice to choose the CRJ route is up to the victim: to coerce them into the process would invalidate it by compounding their victim status.

    I also think that robust but fair criticism of the process can only help it hone its effectiveness.

    It’s great to see this being discussed in this manner.

  • missfitz

    JD
    I’ve read your response very carefully, and I have also read the article in question again. You were quite quick to say I was incorrect, but then you appear to agree with me! We agree on the points that the central tenet is in viewing the harm that is done.

    Now, where I think that the models of RJ that appear to becoming in vogue here extend that model from the traditional victim/perpetrator conference to considering the wider community impact of criminal or anti social behaviour.

    And this is where I would see the problem in the NI context. This is not much less than the development and extension of 2-tier policing. Perhaps because I do not have NI baggage, I still feel that legitimate policing is the only way to go in terms of maintaining law order in the streets.

    In parts of the world where I have lived, I have seen good examples of community policing, particularly where it works hand in hand with local leaders. But it cannot exist OUTSIDE the framework of the state administered justice.

    I’m not sure who is viewing the programmes being developed here as ground breaking and innivative. Or, perhaps I should say that they may be just that, but you havent said that it makes them good!

    I have no agenda here, and I have no intention of naming names. But I strongly stand by my point that the gentleman who made a presentation to a conference I attended was very much identified with Sinn Fein in Derry, indeed he told us that himself.

    I think todays debate has made me more concerned than ever about the direction that CRJ appears to be taking in some areas here. I didint want to believe this, but it really does seem to be supplanting conventional policing, and that wont do. No, it wont do at all.

  • slug

    JD

    “One of the key elements of this system that is overlooked is the right of the victim to choose. In the first instance the victim only approaches CRJ if they have decided that the punitive route ie. the formal criminal justice system is not for them. Then, during the process of the victim is in control and makes decisions on what aspects of the resolution will bring a sense of justice to them, and that may take a wide variety of forms from a simple genuine apology through to financial restitution. These processes are not an easy option for offenders, I have witnessed offenders hoping for the formal system to come into to play rather than have to confront face to face the victims of their crimes. But the key concept is not in terms punishment but of harm created by any offence and how can that be restored. ”

    Thanks again I am getting the idea gradually. I am probably not the sort of person who will be the most well disposed to it, since I am instinctually pro-punishment (I believe in the need for retribution of some sort). But I am interested in the logic and argument, whether or not it suits my instincts.

    I can see how a lot of people might be attracted to that sort of scheme, particularly if it seems to mean that the victim gets his fence fixed or his jewelry back, plus an apology. Although other victims will not want to see the perpetrator.

    I was a bit surprised to see you say that sometimes the offenders hope for the formal system to kick in – suggesting that the CRJ is not voluntary for him. I can’t really understand what powers the CRJ people would have over an offender. Perhaps you could explain, if you have time.

  • missfitz

    Slug
    Just one point here on the differences that appear to be occuring in the NI schemes, as opposed to those in other countries.

    In other RJ schemes, there is a formal referral process, perhaps from the Court or police service for an intervention.

    I still hold that the type of scheme JD is talking about is mediation or dispute resolution and is fundamentally different to RJ in that respect.

  • In the first instance the victim only approaches CRJ if they have decided that the punitive route ie. the formal criminal justice system is not for them. Then, during the process of the victim is in control and makes decisions on what aspects of the resolution will bring a sense of justice to them, and that may take a wide variety of forms from a simple genuine apology through to financial restitution. These processes are not an easy option for offenders, I have witnessed offenders hoping for the formal system to come into to play rather than have to confront face to face the victims of their crimes.

    What do you do when
    Someone approaches the CRJ as a victim but the alleged offender claims they are the victim? Who is then in control and making decisions? If one of the parties does not want to participate in CRJ, then what? What happens next, if you knock on someone’s door with a complaint and they say No, thank, not interested?

  • The Devil

    I’m fed up with this too why do we have to give oxygen to dirty filthy rape assistants….

    who covered up the rape

    who were they covering for

    what part did the IRA play

  • Dualta

    The CRJ came about here as a Republican alternative to physical violence as a means of maintaining the social order in areas deprived of proper policing.

    In being that, it is welcome, but it still falls far short of the ideal, which is proper policing and judicial processes which are linked into the full gammut of the state mechanisms for dealing with crime, including the courts and the prisons.

    CRJ groups cannot deal with serious crime. Only the police can do that.

    On a final note, they are also unaccountable and self-appointed. This is absolutely unacceptable.

  • JD

    Thanks for comments, where do I start?

    “Now, where I think that the models of RJ that appear to becoming in vogue here extend that model from the traditional victim/perpetrator conference to considering the wider community impact of criminal or anti social behaviour.”

    Agreed, that is why the schemes have been called ‘community’ restorative justice. As you know RJ is an internationally accepted concept and can be used in a wide variety of settings, such as, part of the formal justice system, in prisons and in schools. Ireland has taken a step that some other countries coming out of conflict have examined which is applying the concept on a small scale in areas were the former community response had been violent punishment attacks and convincing the population of the merit and effectiveness of this non-violent approach and it is working, ask any local journalist when was the last time that there was a punishment attack in Creggan.

    The projects are being viewed as ground breaking by people like Prof. Harry Mika of Michigan University, Prof Marie Smyth and the Criminal Justice Oversight Commissioner Lord Clyde.

    CRJ has said repeatedly that it is not an alternative to or an attempt to surplant normal policing. Once the politcal difficulties over policing have been resolved and the process of trust in policing arrangements has begun in nationalist areas then CRJ could work in tandem with the formal system, whoever I would would argue that they should remain and cherish their independance.

    Slug

    I understand your instinctive reaction to be pro-punishment and many people share your views, however I would ask you to examine these problems in terms of effectiveness. The formal system has an extremely low clear up rate and an even lower conviction rate (2%), therefore the chances of a perpertrator actually being punished is slim. In addition as part of the formal punitive system the victim has no role or say in the process, once the offence is reported the victims role ends. The police pursue the offender, if caught, which is unlikely, a judge decides on the punishment without any reference to the victim or their thoughts on the matter. The offender may in this case be sent to jail where he/she mixes and learns from other offenders, usually is released quite angry with a criminal record and little chance of getting a job and, statistics show, increasingly likely to re-offend. A hugely expensive and ineffective route if the victim, who is the most important person in this situation, would have been content with a sincere apology or some other type of recompence.

    Slug and Todd,

    The CRJ process is totally voluntary if both or either of the parties are unwilling to partake in it the process then it is over. What do CRJ do if the alleged offender says no? they walk away and report that back the victim who can still pursue the formal route to have their problem addressed, if they choose.

    “I still hold that the type of scheme JD is talking about is mediation or dispute resolution and is fundamentally different to RJ in that respect.”

    Correct, however I disagree that it is fundamentally different it is RJ principles and values applied in a practical, not theoritical, sense to resolve low level community disputes and grievances which constitute the vast bulk of incidents that occur daily in our communities.

    “CRJ groups cannot deal with serious crime. Only the police can do that.”

    Dualta, agreed and in addition it is unlikely that a victim of a serious crime will approach CRJ knowing the limitations of their work. However thankfully the incidents of serious crime in our communities are minor and are far out weighed by the less serious or incidents that do not qualify as crime at all but if it is at your door, you regard it as serious and that is were CRJ can be effective. There is not a police service in the world that deals effectively with these types of low level community disputes, never mind have the resources to do so.

    “On a final note, they are also unaccountable and self-appointed. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

    CRJ is a voluntary organisation working long hours for the benefit of their community, they are accountable to their organisations rules, regulations and procedures, like any other, and are ultimately accountable to their communities in that they will decide whether to use the service or not. But your statement could be made about a wide variety of organisations and quangos recieving vast somes of public money with little or no scutiny on this site.

  • Greg

    JD – B******s yourself! Who runs the Corned Beef Tin? A Sinn Fein Councillor (who’s not the worst of them) and one of those most associated with the punishment squads (who is among the worst of them) Why did so many people who had volunteered in the Corned Beef Tin drop out when the latter started working there? Because they knew that much of the good work that had been done by the community for the community would be undone by his involvement.

    I admit I am biased – biased in favour of due process and looking behind what young people do to the reasons they are doing it. I would prefer to see young people involved with the Probation Service where they would have some hope of having their issues dealt with.

    As for Tony Doc, he may be the chair, that does not mean he leads the CRJ in Creggan.And you know it.

  • JD

    “I admit I am biased – biased in favour of due process and looking behind what young people do to the reasons they are doing it. I would prefer to see young people involved with the Probation Service where they would have some hope of having their issues dealt with.”

    Greg,

    If you prefer the police and courts to deal with any issues that effect your life, then that is your right and I support you in it. However my argument is that it is rarely effective and other methods of resolution should not be dismissed. I agree totally that the causes of crime, and youth crime in particular, need to be dealt with and the resources given to the agencies with that responsibilty. Young people only get involved with probation after they have been sentenced for an offence, prevention of offences should take priority in my view. Restorative justice schemes offer young people who have offended the opportunity to make genuine restitution to their victims and learn from the damage caused without being shackled with a criminal record which will limit their future prospects and without the stigma of being a hood.

    The rest of your post is about personalities that I feel is a distraction from the issue at hand and I am not willing to engage in a slanging match.

  • it is rarely effective

    Can you elaborate? The justice system is rarely effective?

  • JD

    The vast majority of cases that CRJ are involved in consist of anti-social behaviour low level disputes in the community. On the face of it minor, however if it involves you and yours, it does nopt appear minor to you.

    In these types of incidents, the police are usually unwilling to become involved or only focus on any criminal aspects of the incident. If the police do get involved and decide to prosecute, most cases never reach court, if it does, most cases do not result in a successful prosecution and sentence, in addition the simmering anger and sense of grievance that led to the dispute in the first place is never addressed.

  • Yet CRJ is able to correct all of that, resolve all those issues, and more often, i.e., not rarely, than the justice system does? Can you substantiate this claim, either with detailed anecdotal evidence or some other form of reliable reference?

  • JD

    I can give you an example of a recent case and its resolution and you can apply the formal system to the same situation and compare the results.

    A family awakes one morning to discover that two of their family cars have had their wing mirrors damaged, although some family members heard a bit of a fracas during the night none of them saw anything. However one of the family thought they may have recognised the voice of a nieghbour. The father of the household approached the nieghbour who denied any knowledge of the incident but said he was drunk and could remember very little. The police were contacted but said there was nothing they could do and that they should contact their insurance company.

    As time past, anger continued to simmer as the father in particular felt that the nieghbour was indeed responsible. In an incident a number of weeks later in a local bar a fight breaks out between these two individuals. The next day the nieghbours family approach CRJ requesting that they seek a mediation between the two individuals before it escalates. Once both parties have agreed, the mediation process begins. It involves not only the two individuals but their wives and a few family members. Without going into the ins and outs of the mediation. The incident involving the wing mirrors came up, at that the nieghbours wife explained how the husband had come home drunk and told her that he had kicked the wing mirrors off. This, then cleared up the original incident and the mediator moved forward from there. The resolution was an agreement to pay for the wing mirrors, a mutual apology for the fight and a shaking of hands with a committment to try and resolve any disputes in a more amicable way in future.

    Harm addressed and resolution achieved.

  • missfitz

    JD
    I really have to thank you for taking the time and care to explain your position so fully.

    In fact it was Harry Mica who led the conference I attended on RJ, and I was vreye impressed by this man who is an international leader in the subject.

    I take on board everything you are saying, and feel that perhaps a more open approach needs to be taken by anyone using the more formal model when assessing the position in NI.

    Your own caveat is perhaps the most important one: when acceptable policing in in place both systems can work side by side. That may be easier said than done, but it has to remain the goal.

    Cheers again JD, I enjoyed this discourse and foudn it useful

  • JD

    Your welcome.