The trouble with secret negotiations is that there is very little detail in the public domain that you can examine and come to certain conclusions. After a meeting with senior personnel around the proposed restorative justice protocol this morning, Alex Attwood believes there are strange and contradictory signals being flagged by the Secretary of State on one hand and the NIO’s determination to recruit for a ‘vetting panel’ for a scheme that still lacks ‘broad political agreement’ on the other. From Alex Attwood
“There have been fresh indications that the NIO may be planning to forge ahead with their Restorative Justice Protocol. The SDLP backs the concept of restorative justice – but we will continue to expose bad practice on the ground and the bad standards of the draft protocol.
The fresh indications about possible NIO plans have emerged over the last two weeks. The Secretary of State advised the Policing Board in October that, if there was not broad political agreement around the Restorative Justice Protocol, the government would not proceed. Despite this, in the last two weeks, a senior official in the NIO has written to the Policing Board (and presumably other organisations), asking for nominations to sit on “a vetting panel”, to vet those who should and should not work in Restorative Justice Schemes. (The Board rightly refused to nominate).
What does this letter mean? Why are the NIO looking for nominations at this time? The NIO are, at best, sending out mixed messages. On the one hand, no progress on restorative justice unless there is broad political support. On the other, proceeding to put in place a process around vetting.
Are the NIO re-heating their restorative justice proposals despite widespread political and community concern? Is the NIO putting the restorative justice architecture in place with the intention of pushing on regardless of this widespread concern?
I have contacted David Hanson’s private office (the Minister responsible for the protocol) to arrange a meeting as soon as possible to get this clarified, to restate the concerns about the protocol and to hold the Secretary of State to the commitment he gave to the Board.”