“a need for staff and volunteers to be ‘trained up’ in respect of the Protocol..”

I had asked whether the Colin Community Restorative Justice group, in particular, had read the protocols required for accreditation in a post yesterday. I hadn’t seen this Irish News report, via Newshound, which for all the futuring and the welcome from head of CRJ Belfast, Jim Auld, points to the findings of the Criminal Justice Inspectors report into those CRJ schemes still not accredited. Only the press release seems to be available [pdf file] Update Full report available here [pdf file] more below the fold

The report however indicated that further development was needed before the CRJI schemes inspected in Belfast and in Londonderry/Derry would be ready to seek accreditation under the Government’s community-based restorative justice Protocol.
“We were impressed by the commitment shown by volunteers and staff, but feel that if the schemes are to be successful in securing accreditation from Government, they need to formalise their relationships with the criminal justice agencies to meet the stringent requirements of the Protocol”, he said.
CJI pointed to a need for staff and volunteers to be ‘trained up’ in respect of the Protocol and for the schemes to adopt clear, standardised record-keeping that can provide the basis for future inspections.
The Inspectorate also recommended the establishment of an independent complaints system which clients could use if they felt their case had been handled in an unsatisfactory way.

From the full report [pdf file]

On CRJI schemes

The Belfast schemes

5.8 The Belfast schemes handle a wide range of business, which includes some serious crime and threats from dissident paramilitaries. They are well run, and great dedication is shown by the small team of staff members as well as by the volunteers. Inspectors were astonished at the commitment shown by many of those they interviewed, and there could be no question about their motivation being to help their communities, not in any sense to control them. [added emphasis]

5.9 Training was good, and paid due attention to human rights and to child protection. Mediation practice was non-coercive, relying on the forces of social control within the community and the respect in which individual CRJI practitioners are held. Record-keeping was good by the standards of small voluntary organisations and little modification would be required to meet the requirements of Inspectors.

5.10 The Belfast schemes are not in the business of patrolling or providing a security presence. They have separated themselves from the Safer Neighbourhood projects, though there is still evidence of some members participating in both. Inspectors agree that CRJI is right to pursue a policy of separation, so that their role does not become confused.

5.11 The funding position is precarious, especially for Falls and Upper Springfield, and there is urgency about finding money to keep these offices open.

while in Londonderry

The NorthWest schemes

5.12 The schemes carry out an impressive range of activities aimed at keeping the peace in their communities and resolving disputes as quickly as possible without recourse to the law.
They contribute to a network of community organisations, and their influence goes far wider than the activities which are specifically carried out in their name. The dedication of the volunteers has earned them a high reputation in the community. The schemes in the NorthWest have few detractors.

5.13 Only a small proportion of the ‘complaints’ with which they deal involve criminal offences. The majority would be neighbour disputes and low-level anti-social behaviour. Nevertheless, they are involved in criminal cases, sometimes of a serious nature. They have not normally reported such offences to the police, though they regularly now advise the victims to go to the police themselves, and may accompany them if the victim wishes. They report cases of alleged sexual abuse direct to the police. [added emphasis]

5.14 In order to operate the Protocol effectively the NorthWest schemes would need to improve their recordkeeping, and that would require paid staff, offices with secure storage for the files, and clarity about precisely which volunteers and staff were authorised to act as ‘practitioners’ for the schemes. It would be those practitioners who would be vetted by the suitability panel established by the Secretary of State.

5.15 Inspectors would suggest that CRJI NorthWest should follow CRJI Belfast in aiming to distance itself in general from security activities, which though lawful are liable to be interpreted as ‘alternative policing’. An exception might reasonably be made in relation to Derry City FC, where the existing arrangement works well and is supported by the PSNI, who retain control at all times.

and

Recommendation

5.16 We recommend that the schemes of CRJI Belfast and CRJI North West should be considered for accreditation as soon as they are ready to declare that they are complying with the Protocol, on the understanding that:

• They will re-present themselves publicly to emphasise that they are a service to all sections of the community equally and would welcome volunteers and committee members from all parts of the community;

They continue to move in the direction of distancing themselves from activities not supported by the PSNI that could be interpreted as ‘alternative policing’; [added emphasis]

• They strengthen their ability (especially the NorthWest schemes) to keep clear and explicit case records, which can be used as the basis for future inspection; and

• They introduce proper procedures for recording and investigating complaints and publicise the availability of an independent external complaint mechanism if complainants are still dissatisfied.

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  • Damian O’Loan

    I just posted this on the previous thread, but will repeat it here…

    For examples of SF members describing RJ as an alternative to policing, see the SDLP submission to the consultation that led to the protocol. It should be available on the Assembly website. It was comprehensively ignored, but is a fine piece of work that could have led to RJ becoming something of value.

    However, since the protocol explicitly forbids this approach, though without means to enforce such opposition, SF members should now know to be careful with their language at least.

    SF’s commitment to one justice system, under the British government, is difficult to reconcile with these kinds of stories. Perhaps they’re having trouble bringing along the grassroots. Perhaps they intend to keep control of their areas, and because they’re mostly working class, that’s fine with the establishment.

    What this whole episode shows is that human rights are enforced on the basis of expediency. That SF rhetoric on human rights is as shallow as the British governments (see recent oposition to EU charter in negociations on the EU treaty.)

    It takes a lot to make me want to post on here, NI has enough opinions and doesn’t need mine. But this I find sickening – shady deals round St Andrews where the Brits and SF pawn off those without the means to represent their own interests, and who have suffered quite enough during the last few decades. If the former activists/terrorists, whatever you would call them, of the Republican movement needed to be looked after as part of our peace deal, isn’t there a way to do so that doesn’t mean the working class pay the price?

    Its the same deal on both sides of the divide. How do you unite the most bitter enemies? Govern like its Jim Crow days, and shaft the poor people. History serves the Brits well it seems, and us too blind or stupid to see what’s happening, to stop the most obvious tragedies that are certain to occur. This is among the most cynical aspects of our ‘new dispensation.’ I’m not of the working class – but I can still call it as it is. Time will back up my words.

  • Does accreditation affect funding

  • Damian

    Accreditation is required for funding to be considered. It is at the discretion of the SoS, following inspections carried out by the Criminal Justice Inspector. Therein lies much of the problem.

  • UFB

    My response from the other thread also Damien:

    I found the SDLP’s consultation paper on CRJ and the only factual proof that they proffer to support their otherwise seemingly baseless allegations is the aforementioned current Education Minister’s comments, some vague report in the Strabane Chronicle stating:

    “Sinn Fein are working along with the CRJ project in Derry with the aim of developing a wider debate on the viability of developing such a [community restorative justice] project within the Strabane area. The development of such a project is not dependent upon an acceptance of corrupt policing structures and nor can it be.”

    Strabane Chronicle, October 2005

    Regarding Davy Highland it supposedly stated in one of Highland’s 2003 election pamphlets:

    [That he] “successfully completed a course in Community Restorative Justice, a widely accepted alternative policing system.”

    Hardly conclusive evidence to verify SDLP claims that community restorative justice groups [are] linked to Sinn Féin?

  • Damian O’Loan

    Who do you think factored this into the deal?

    You would be a lonely man indeed to suggest that the republican movement, SF and CRJ are not linked. I would refer you to the Ballymurphy meeting to which Hugh Orde was invited and Gerry Adams attended, for example. (And to which I was refused admittance) But its not necessarily a bad thing either. Its just that the way its being implemented isn’t rigourous enough. Why should another branch of the justice system not face the sasme scrutiny the police do – i.e someone with the powers of the Ombudsman. That has been shown to work, to increase confidence.

    Why? I think we all know. Hence my points on the disregard for human rights. I have seen the uglier side of restorative justice, and I think it needs to be properly monitored. Is that so radical? Wouldn’t that be consistent? Why would anyone object to such scrutiny – the line about losing the people’s confidence is so unaware of its inherent irony, its acceptance almost makes me wonder if we aren’t getting exactly what we deserve. But its not me. I was fortunate enough to be raised at a safe distance from this control. I just think that people deserve better.

  • UFB

    Damien, I find your post somewhat convoluted however I’ll try to address some points.

    Regarding the central point of, as Veritas claimed
    earlier in another thread, CRJ being a “SF alternative to policing” I disagreed and you referred me to the SDLP consultation :

    edited link – moderator

    Now, I’ve read the paper and it’s heavy on accusation but totally devoid of evidence regarding this allegation apart from the vague references that I stated at 6.40. If you can find any other substantive proof to verify the veracity
    of these accusations then be my guest.

    “Who do you think factored this into the deal”?

    Perhaps it’s just me Damien but I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

    “Why should another branch of the justice system not face the sasme scrutiny the police do – i.e someone with the powers of the Ombudsman”?

    Perhaps because, at the moment, they’re a non statutory voluntary body?. However I can see your point and I fully agree that some oversight mechanism should be in place.

    “I have seen the uglier side of restorative justice”

    Anecdotal evidence is no substitute for the real thing Damien, you should know that.

    “I was fortunate enough to be raised at a safe distance from this control”

    Wow, you’re lucky not to be a brainwashed robot like the rest of us from the bad side of town.

    [sarcasm off]

    I’d like you to elaborate on this “control” Damien
    and while you’re at it have you bothered to read the Criminal Justice Inspectorates inspection outcome so helpfully supplied on the other thread?

    Don’t bother, I’ll get for you myself:

    http://www.cjini.org/Publications/documents/CRJIReportWeb.pdf

    The part on the “control” you allege makes interesting reading.

    As someone who first used CRJ’s services and then became a voluntary mediator I can personally testify to the commitment, dedication and professionalism of the people who work there, giving up their time freely in order to make their communities a better place to live in for all, [often a thankless task].

    But don’t take my word for it, engage them yourself and draw your own conclusions just like the Criminal Justice Inspectorate.

  • Pete Baker

    UFB

    The report, which after all is the actual topic, is linked – and its conclusions and recommendations quoted – in the update to the original post above.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Firstly, I have an enormous respect for your involvement with restorative justice. It won’t work on its own, and you’ve clearly done a lot more than I have to ensure that it does.

    The deal I referred to was St Andrews, and what was between the lines.

    The CJI, in his examination, does not seize documents, indeed cannot by law. In his first inspection he spoke to service users – referred by the Scheme in question. I could go on, but it just isn’t stringent enough.

    Out of respect for the confidentiality of those involved, I won’t elucidate on what I mentioned, except to say that it did not involve CRJI.

    Paramilitary control is a reality. Whether it is justified is another question. Intimidation, tacit or explicit, continues to exist. Internalised ideologies ensure that this begins in the playground.

    I don’t appreciate your sarcasm either – I’d been thinking the level of debate was excellent up until now. You used the word brainwashed. Imeant only that I was at a a safe distance from paramilitary threat, geographically.

    I do not want to snipe from the sidelines, and am an open target for such criticism. I just think that human rights are important, and I don’t think we’re at a stage where we ‘can’t afford them.’ So, respectfully, maybe we can agree to differ?

  • UFB

    Firstly Damien let me apologise for the sarcastic outburst, I obviously misinterpreted your original post and in the light of clarification of context my sarcasm was unwarranted.

    In terms of the Inspecorate I was one of the individuals interviewed, as a voluntary CRJ mediator. I found the interview to be fairly in depth. I am also aware that the Inspectorate’s interviews with CRJ clients was equally in depth. In out-of-interview conversations the inspectors spoke in glowing terms of CRJI’s work.

    I’m not sure what your disagreement regarding the stringency of the Inspectorates work is. As someone who was witness to the wholisitic nature of the inspection I can say, IMO, that the inspection was comprehensive in terms that it covered all aspects of CRJI’s work including administration and all case records, documents, training policies etc were made available to the Inspectorate.

    In terms of confedentiality, I am also bound by it but it should not prevent you from speaking about situations in the broadest general terms. In the context of your choosing not to elaborate on certain circumstances, previously raised by you, that’s a choice I will respect however you should also note that if you raise such specteres and then choose the cloak of confedentiality, when asked to expand, it is a very thin disguise.

    Paramilitary control may well be a reality Damian however I can only speak from personal experience and from where I live,[in W.Belfast], that is thankfully no longer the case.

    Human rights are vital for all citizens in society and for society in general, they are fundamental to my individual beliefs. I have my personal basic principles of jutice, compassion and fair play which I try to live my daily life by.

    In that context Damian I respectfully suggest that we can’t agree to disagree in the sense that I have had the privilege to work with individuals who generally hold the same principles as I and yet their characters are besmirched by groundless accusations made by comments such as those made by you previously.

    Apologies also Pete. Point noted.