some time today, then?

Today NIO Minister David Hanson is supposed to be publishing the final version of the guidelines for CRJ schemes – original draft guidelines here – and revealing how they will be expected to fit together with the rest of the criminal justice system, the BBC has been trailing what those guidelines will contain since Friday – their latest report is here. But the Irish Times’ Gerry Moriarty reports that he has been told[subs req] there will, in fact, be another 12 week consultation period on the [new? – Ed] guidelines in response to the sustained criticism, from many quarters, of what those guidelines are expected to say.. well, I guess we’ll know later.. Update Gerry Moriarty had it right, new draft protocols published[pdf file].. and a another 12 week consultation period.From the Irish Times:

The North’s criminal justice minister David Hanson was today due to publish his final proposals for CRJ schemes in the North based on what he had learned from a consultation programme that began last December.

However, sources said yesterday that such was the concern expressed that these schemes could lead to a form of “vigilantism” in republican and loyalist areas that Mr Hanson has decided to embark on another 12-week consultation period to try “to get the issue right”.

The main thrust of the opposition to his original proposals emanated from the SDLP, the Policing Board and the McCartney sisters, whose brother, Robert, was murdered outside Magennis’s bar close to the Short Strand in east Belfast at the end of January last year.

The McCartneys mounted a Justice for Robert campaign claiming that IRA members had intimidated witnesses from giving evidence that would have convicted his killers. They also warned that the CRJ schemes as originally proposed by Mr Hanson could lead to republican paramilitary policing in republican areas. They said that people associated with their brother’s murder were involved in CRJ schemes.

Meanwhile, SDLP leader Mark Durkan and senior members, including policing spokesman Alex Attwood, led a party campaign against the consultation proposals. They ignored Sinn Féin allegations that the SDLP was pursuing a “securocrat agenda”.

Official sources admitted that such was the force of the opposition to the proposals that Mr Hanson felt he had no option but to alter his original recommendations and seek further public ideas on how CRJ schemes should operate.

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  • slug

    Well done the SDLP and the McCartneys for standing up on this. Its not the first time they have got the government to think again, last year they were successful on the amnesty legislation.

    Interesting meantime that the Catholic percentage of the PSNI continues to grow past a very historic 20%, and adding 2% a year, this means they will be at 26% by 2009.

    All good for the SDLP.

  • Peking

    I see in regard to government funded vigilanties, it’s Roy-to-the-rescue as usual for the UVF over in the Irish News.

  • Rubicon

    Pete – reading through the links I’m left with the impression that CRJ is little different from kangaroo courts – whether it is limited to “low-level criminal offences” or not.

    Is an accused person assumed innocent until proven guilty? Is there a trial process involved?

    The BBC report CRJI dealt with 1,700 cases last year but there was no relationship with the police, PPS or courts. How were these 1,700 cases selected? What kind of cases did they deal with? Were these 1,700 accused people offered a fair trial? What was the standard of evidence presented?

    I know if I was accused of an offence I would not recognise such “courts” and I doubt I’d be in a minority. If the general population refuse to participate or co-operate with the criminal justice system then N.I. will have taken a huge step backwards.

  • slug

    Basically time is not on the side of these CRJ schemes, given that the Catholic % of the PSNI is rising rapidly, currently 20% and in 5 years it will be 30%. For each year the CRJ idea is postponed, the less likely they can avoid working properly with the PSNI.

  • Nevin

    Could we extend Bertie Ahern’s one state one army to one police service and one justice system?

    Presumably Michael McDowell will be opposed to this widening of the paramilitary wedge as paramilitary godfather control of local communities is being ‘legitimised’ by the British government – and Bertie Ahern will sit on the fence.

    Where are the independent commissioners and chairs of agencies of accountability? Are they all on holiday?

  • spirit-level

    on first glance I scanned “daft proposals”, not “draft proposals” as is written.
    after reading the thread I realise my first glance was more accurate.

  • JD

    Rubicon and nevin,

    You have a fundamental misunderstanding of what community restorative justice is about and how it operates. There is no trial or punitive process it is an alternative model to resolving disputes through mediation. It is internationally recognised as being a much more effective system of resolving low level offences focusing on repairing the relationships between offender/victim and community rather than focusing on punishment. In addition it is particular effective in youth offending a reduces the need for young to end up in the criminal justice system with the negative spiral that that process usually initiates.

    They may seem to you like a victory for the SDLP, but you are misreading the mood in the areas were these projects operate they are well used and popular because people have seen their success. This was never about funding for CRJ and indeed there are four new projects being established in Derry alone over the next few months. Training of the volunteers is already underway. So your smuggness at this announcement is misplaced.

  • harpo

    ‘it is an alternative model to resolving disputes through mediation.’


    Resolving disputes? Isn’t that dispute resolution?

    Isn’t the normal form of CRJ intended to deal with what you go on to say – offences? What do disputes have to do with it? Unless of course you see (for example) an attack by someone on someone else as a dispute.

  • JD

    What is an offence and what is a resolvable dispute is dependant on the views of the victim. This is a victim centred process, the criminal justice system is not. The victim should have the right to choose the route that they feel is most appropriate in bringing them a sense of justice.

  • Nevin

    JD, I have a problem with CRJ schemes being directed by loyalist and republican paramilitary thugs as is the practice in Northern Ireland and in parts of the Republic of Ireland.

    Are CRJ schemes in, say, New Zealand directed by such criminal elements?

    If we’re very unlucky the Government will place community policing and justice in the hands of the likes of Johnny Adair and Gerry Adams. I can’t imagine the Republic of Ireland endorsing similar arrangements in, say, Donegal and Dublin. Can you?

  • John Maynard

    “What is an offence and what is a resolvable dispute is dependant on the views of the victim”

    This is absurd. In every other CRJ scheme in the world, what is an offence is defined in law.
    No process, however ‘victim-centred’, can allow the victim to define what constitutes a crime and still retain any pretence of being rights-based.

    Or has Sinn Fein abandoned the human rights agenda entirely?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I suspect that not many people say they are ‘Not Guilty’ under these schemes – would you when faced with some less than savourty gentlemen?

    A little bit of community service is preferable to the possible (or perceived) alternatives even if you are innocent.

    If the police are not involved and they are not independently accountable this is not justice, this is a way of taking the law away from where it should be – and giving it to a ‘lynch mob’ mentality.

    Roll on the day when the PSNI is at the correct %ages and no one can refuse to accept then on spurious grounds.

  • JD


    Quite apart from the fact that the bulk of CRJ work is dealing with non criminal disputes, lets deal with your point. 50% of crime at least goes unreported, the victims choice, you cannot deny that free will exists and that victims in particular have more right to decide what is justice for them, than you do. If a victim decides after a minor assault with a neighbour that they would rather persue a mediated resolution rather than a criminal prosecution, because they want to remain a neighbour, who are you to deny them that option.

    In my community republican exPOWs are viewed with respect and many have been at the forefront in recent years in improving the lives of the people in that area which has further improve their standing in the community. In many ways such individuals have proved by far the most acceptable people, after appropriate accredited training to be community mediators. Your personal attitudes to republicans shows how far removed you are from realities on the ground in nationalist/republican areas.

    This process is entirely voluntary for both sides in a dispute, if either victim or offender does not wish to take part the process ends, and the victim is totally free to seek redress elsewhere. However the fact that so many cases have resulted in successful resolution shows how this process can work for victims.

  • Nevin

    [i]2.5 Roles of staff

    The Co-ordinator is the key person responsible for the day-to-day operations of the programme. His role and responsibilities, as stated in the Operating Document (page 6), are to:

    co-ordinate referrals from persons seeking restorative justice;
    negotiate and liaise with Police and appropriate agencies regarding an offender’s suitability for restorative justice;
    liaise with the victim and the offender in order to set up a restorative justice meeting;
    monitor progress and ensure completion of the contract;
    provide reports on progress and completion of the contract as required to Police, court and other identified parties;
    maintain detailed records of the project;
    in conjunction with the Management Committee interview and select members for the Community Panel;
    co-ordinate members of the Community Panel to attend conferences;
    organise training sessions for the Community Panel.[/i]

    Will the paramilitary quasi-CRJ co-ordinators co-operate with the relevant state agencies as is the case in NZ?

  • harpo

    ‘What is an offence and what is a resolvable dispute is dependant on the views of the victim.’


    Utter bollocks.

    Going by this, in a dispute one would first have to come up with which party is the victim. So under CRJI, who gets to decide who the victim is?

    Under proper CRJ both parties have to voluntarily accept which role they are in – victim or offender. Thus if there is a sexual assault, both the assaulted and the person who carried out the assualt accept their positions in the case – as victim and offender respectively. The justice moves on from there.

    But what if one party turns up with a ‘dispute’, and they claim to be a victim even though they carried out an assault for example? CRJ won’t work in that case, as the actual victim may not be impressed that the actual offender claims to be the victim.

    So who determines what the actual facts are in such dispute cases? Does the CRJI have an investigative wing that conducts investigations in order to establish who the victim and who the offender is? The role that the police carry out in the real world?

    Or is the determination made by the CRJI based on who puts forth the better argument?

    This is the problem with CRJ. It depends on everyone accepting their role in events. What it can’t handle are people who lie – who claim to be victims when they are not, or who refuse to accept that they are offenders. And we all know that lying is a big part of what the real authorities have to deal with in the regular criminal justice system. I can’t see how CRJI people can deal with such situations. CRJI can’t be dispute resolvers if they claim to be working with CRJ methodologies.

    Unless of course the CRJI folks become involved in forcing (by whatever method) people to ‘volunteer’ to accept their role in events. But then it would be a farce, as people would feel they had to accept being offenders, for fear of something very bad happening to them.

    And that’s what many people are worried about – that CRJI just becomes a vehicle to enforce paramilitary decided justice, where people who aren’t actually offenders go along with whatever they are told to do, in case the alternative is that they get their knees broken.

  • harpo

    ‘In every other CRJ scheme in the world, what is an offence is defined in law.’


    Exactly right. In some places first time sexual assaults can be dealt with by CRJ, but the normal criminal justice system determines the facts before a case can be sent to CRJ. And both the victim and the offender have to accept that those are their roles in the case.

    I can’t see how a ground up approach can work, where folks turn up at the CRJ claiming victimhood and that something be done about the alleged offender. JD seems to assume that all of the events have been established, so that the victim is known, but how are such facts to be established? By the CRJ people? And as you say, how can the victim be expected to know the actual law, so that an offence has actually happened?

    JD has put the cart before the horse. There can’t be a victim unless an offence has taken place, but JD wants to let the victim decide if an offence has taken place. It’s madness. You’d have all sorts of supposed victims inventing offences that don’t actually exist in law. We’ve all seen the results of Provo style CRJ, when people committed the offence of looking at a Provo, or his woman, the wrong way. ‘Justice’ involved a knife in the guts.

    I don’t see how supposed victims can decide if an offence has taken place, given that they have no training in the law. The same goes for CRJ people who receive a little bit of training. FFS – it takes the various levels of the real courts years in some cases to define the scope of laws and whether certain behaviour constitutes a breach of those laws and thus an offence.

    And they want a systm where volunteers in the Shankill or the Ardoyne areas (or even victims) set precedent for what an offence is?

    It’s all ass-backwards.

    Can’t you just imagine a case where a ‘victim’ gets CRJ to agree with them that the other party is an offender because the supposed offender looked at him in a strange way?

  • harpo

    ‘Quite apart from the fact that the bulk of CRJ work is dealing with non criminal disputes, lets deal with your point.’


    This is where you are all wrong. In other parts of the world CRJ is not bout resolving community disputes, it is about coming up with an alternative form of justice once it has been established, and accepted by the parties involved, exactly who the victim and the offender are.

    Dispute resolution is not appropraite work for CRJ people, it is appropriate work for dispute resolvers.

    Are you really trying to explain that what you and others call CRJ is actually dispute resolution work? If that is so, why not call it that, and stop calling it CRJ, since CRJ in other parts of the world doesn’t involve dispute resolution.

    I havn’t seen you address a point that several of us have raised. If there is to be this bottom up approach, who decides in a dispute which party is the victim and which party is the offender? The very fact that there is a dispute demonstrates that the facts of which party is the victim has not been established. That’s what disputes are – situations where two or more parties decide that they are right and the other party(ies) are wrong.

    So who does the police work?

    ‘If a victim decides after a minor assault with a neighbour that they would rather persue a mediated resolution rather than a criminal prosecution, because they want to remain a neighbour, who are you to deny them that option.’

    Again you have it all backwards. Who decided that they are the victim? Couldn’t they be lying? Who investigates to decide if there even was an assault? And to determine who assaulted whom?

    Does your version of CRJ just accept people’s claims when they turn up and say ‘I’m a victim’?

    If the CRJ groups were serious about all of this they would approach it the way it has bean done in other countries – top down. As a way of getting real justice for victims who are determined to have been actual victims by the proper authorities.

    Let’s face it – the NI model is bottom up because the CRJ groups don’t want the authorities involved. But unless they are, there won’t be any transparancy in such processes.

    What you describe is not CRJ. It’s dispute resolution by enthusiastic amateurs. And their enthusiasm derives from wanting local control, not justice.

  • harpo

    ‘negotiate and liaise with Police and appropriate agencies regarding an offender’s suitability for restorative justice’


    Of course the supposed CRJ folks won’t follow the normal pattern. They don’t want to have anything to do with the authorities or proper agencies. In other places the roles (victim and offender) are established by the authorities.

    The NI model of course seems to involve the CRJ (and whoever they decide the victim is) defining the roles. That can’t work.

  • JD

    Before I deal with some of your over elaborated points let me make this point. Lets get real here your problem is who is involved ie republicans, not necessarily the methodology. But yet you expect me oe any other nationalist to accept some ex British Army major who found favour with the Government and found himself a high court judge to decide my future impartially if I commit a crime.

    But that aside, you do not understand the mediation process, used the world over and also used in schemes internationally, ie in the USA, that have no connection to the state system. Part of a mediation process involves an establishment of the facts, that can be done through a variety of methods that involves aprties who were not directly involved in the incident. the process also involves taking into account other factors such historical grievances. All of this is done before the any formal or informal mediation begins. Despite your sinacism, through-out this process no threat is present and the parties can decide it is not for them at any stage, (unlike some state systems which use jail as a threat for non co-operation). Try and leave your petty prejudices behind and open your mind to alternative methods of resloving disputes.

  • John Maynard

    Nonsence. Every other CRJ scheme in the world works fully with ‘the state system’ – they are intrinsic parts of that system.

    You cannot duck the perfectly legitimate questions being asked here about CRJ processes by claiming that the questioners are prejudiced.
    Regardless of the motivations of the questioners, the points remain valid for anyone genuinely concerned with human rights.

  • JD

    Wrong again John, there are a number of restorative projects in the US with no direct link to the state. Some of the projects connected to churches, for example, the other are the Peace Judges of the Navajo nation. But I am happy to answer questions about processes as I have seen their success however I am getting somewhat lost in the verbocity of it all. Put your question again and I will be happy to answer it.

  • Rubicon

    JD – your objective of keeping youths out of the criminal justice system is laudable but I remain far from convinced that the CRJ system is the way to achieve that.

    Crimes are defined in law, the evidence that can be used to determine someone’s guilt is strictly regulated and takes a great deal of training by those involved in the process; police, lawyers and judges. Even with all of the investment miscarriages of justice occur. Part of the public’s acceptance of the system (an essential requirement for a democratic and peaceful society) is that they believe it gets things generally right, that they can see it in operation and that they are involved (through juries).

    The particular version of CRJ being proposed here is not aimed at adding a tool to the justice system but putting in place an alternate system that refuses to work with the police – which you criticise as a political complaint. It is a political complaint – less party-political than a widely accepted understanding of our (British & Irish) political system involving the separation of powers between government, parliament and criminal justice.

    In N.I. there is also an issue that cannot ignore people’s party-political issues. The CRJ will further ghettoise areas and act as a significant inhibition to residential mixing between the communities. As a Catholic living in East Belfast I can assure you I’ll not be co-operating with a loyalist dominated “justice panel”. I also expect my refusal to co—operate would not pass unnoticed by the same loyalists and their mates.

    Keeping young people out of the criminal justice system doesn’t start with ditching the system. Measures aimed at improving youth behaviour so that they don’t commit the crime in the first place is a better investment.

  • JD


    I accept much of what you say. You must understand that CRJ is not designed to be an alternative to anything other than punishment attacks. Ideally there would be co-operation between and a free flow of information between the criminal justice system and CRJ and that is where this must ultimately go. But we are coming out of conflict, the criminal justice system and in particular the police were part of that conflict. As much as unionists are having difficulty coming to terms with equality for nationalists and republicans, republicans have similiar suspicions for the organs of a state to which they bear no alliegance. Therefore in this period of transition and political change we need to show imagination to ensure society as a whole moves together. That said I feel even in an ideal situation the CRJ works best complimenting a criminal justice system not as part of it, and that it should retain its independance.