Whatever happened to..

Community Restorative Justice? The question arises, in part, from the absence of any reference to ‘restorative justice’ in Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams’ statements on the murder of Frank McGreevy and, in particular, his party’s apparent support for ‘tougher policing’ to deal with anti-social behaviour – the police investigation into the circumstances surrounding that murder continues. No longer funded by Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies some of the RJ schemes, but not all of them, have so far failed to gain the necessary accreditation to receive public funds for their activities. Meanwhile an Irish News report points to activities on the ground in west Belfast, where “Volunteers patrolling a west Belfast neighbourhood where a father-of-two was beaten to death last weekend are to be given a direct line to police.” Pictured below are SF MLA, Paul Maskey, “community workers” Stephen Corr and Sean Murray and Superintendent Nick Purce. It’s not the first photo of Sean Murray the Irish News has carried..
Safety Partnership

Here he is in May last year, at a meeting chaired by Martin McAleese, seemingly representing the Provisional IRA Army Council to Jackie McDonald’s representing the UDA inner council. Left to right, Sean Murray, Martin McAleese, Jackie McDonald.

Btw, Sean Murray is also a member of the Parades Review Team.

On Restorative Justice, the November report from the Criminal Justice Inspectorate on CRJ (Ireland) schemes noted some points on the Belfast-based organisation.

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]

And that

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.

Since November, the date of the report, there have been reports of a number of incidents, and confrontations, in which “veteran republicans” have been hospitalised or, as in the most recent case, killed – although it’s worth pointing out that none of the reports directly linked those incidents to any organisational activity.

But, as the Irish News report noted

Members of the Safer Neighbourhoods Project patrol the streets of the lower Falls in a bid to clamp down on anti-social behaviour.

They have been given a mobile phone number to call should trouble erupt.

Until last night the group contacted police through the police switchboard, which had prompted complaints alleging slow response times.

Now volunteers have been given a phone number that will connect them directly to a duty inspector, who can dispatch officers if necessary.

Meanwhile, the schemes’ public responses to criminal activity has been less than encouraging.

The organisation that deals with restorative justice in the area, Colin Community Restorative Justice, says it has contacted paramilitary groups who deny involvement and has offered to mediate with the criminal gang it says is involved. Police have confirmed there are death threats and that the man the gang were after, who is married with two children, has now fled the area.

The police response in other areas to serious crime has been equalling less than encouraging at times.. as has the governments’.

And, while the Northern Ireland Alternatives’ schemes are now accredited, there were concerns raised in May last year by the CJI report then.

“In particular there needs to be clarity about the limits beyond which delinquent or anti-social behaviour needs to be treated as criminal and reported to the police,” it stated.

“The schemes are clear that serious offences must be notified, but there has been a grey area where some of the judgements made have not been entirely comfortable.”

Another point to note is that, although no longer funding Restorative Justice Groups, Atlantic Philanthropies continues to fund other organisations here.

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  • joeCanuck

    Excuse my ignorance, but are CRJ schemes a Northern Ireland concept or are they used in other jurisdictions worldwide?

  • Joe, in other jurisdictions they’re part of the state justice system whereas here they appear to be part of the various paramilitary networks.

  • Granni Trixie

    CRJ and CAJ and numerous other groups in NI over the years have been funded largely by Atlantic Philanthropies (an organisation to which, remember, one cannot apply – you have to be ‘chosen’). There is certainly a piece of research to be done examining the impact of the intervention of AA resources. For instance, CRJ was able to do its own thing as long as it was supported by AA but you could argue this inhibited its development so that it cannot now fit into the justice system “proper”.

  • McGrath

    Oaths of fealty (not Mick) being exchanged between vassals.

    Its a twisted mess.

  • Ahem

    Watch out: coming soon to an Amazon link near you. Well, a damn sight sooner than these yahoos are going to bring ‘justice’ to the denizens of west Belfast.

    [See commenting policy – edited moderator]

  • Northsider

    Heard a rumour today that it was expected by many grassrooters that an announcement was tobe made that the IRA army council was to be disbanded.

    Didn’t happen – I wonder why?

    Also, in reference to this story, I used to know one of the members photographed here…

    It’s not Spike Murray, or the police person, or Maskey…

  • pfhl

    why would it be mentioned in a dead man’s oration?

    I dont like the fact they seem to be saying they do not report everything. I would suppose the public would report crime to the police before CRJ if they had the confidence in the PSNI doing their job in west belfast though. I wonder why they do not have this confidence. It may be the appalling level of crime in west belfast and how the PSNI fail to deal with it. What is the need for CRJ if a police force is doing it’s job for everybody? Sean Murray is on the army council, who didn’t know or read this before? Under what reasoning did you expect to hear Gerry mention CRJ in an oration to a dead republican? I can not say i was shocked.

  • Pete Baker


    That one link is included, “in part”, not so much for what Gerry Adams doesn’t say, as for what he does say

    “Some people, with a quite perverted logic have chosen to blame Sinn Féin in general and me in particular.

    Let’s be very clear about this.

    The thugs who killed Bap McGreevy are the people responsible. No one else.”

    Many people would extend that sentiment to all murders.

    And that’s without a comparison with the actual topic

    “Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders.”

    Granni Trixie

    It’s not necessarily directly applicable in this example, but you might be interested in this article at Open Democracy.

  • Granni Trixie

    Thanks Pete – I did find this link interesting, even if I did not fully understand it – there are some applications to NI. I do not think that AA sees that, by what it tends to fund, it favours a repubican analysis and I think that far from rectifying power relations, it has garnered power to itself.

  • Granni Trixie

    JoeCanuck: I do not know if CRJ is a worldwide idea but in NI I think it emerged from Quaker thinking – around 1991-2 I remember the Quakers having a conference on the concept which seemed strange then. The CRJ schemes which emerged in nogo areas then fitted up the idea to suit themselves.

  • Joe, here is the approach used in (the Republic of) Ireland:

    Restorative justice was introduced for the first time in the Children Act 2001. There are two restorative justice initiatives provided for in the Act:

    * A restorative conference or restorative caution included in the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme
    * A Court-ordered restorative justice conference delivered through the Probation Service.

    In NI, CRJ has been part of the paramilitary community control process, a process that has included the brutal destruction of limb joints, either by shooting or beating.

  • Ciarán

    More on restorative justice at Wikipedia.

  • joeCanuck

    Thanks Granni, Nevin and Ciarn.

  • Pete Baker

    Granni Trixie

    Indeed. And, as well as the confusion in enforcement that seems to have been allowed to develop, there would appear to be a distinct lack of accountability in several areas.

  • NIO making limited progress on accreditation [pdf file]

    What will happen to schemes that continue to operate without accreditation?

  • Pete Baker

    It’s a good question, Nevin.

    There is no onus on the official judicial system to recognise such private operators without accreditation.

    But there appears to be no willingness on the part of the official judicial system to withdraw support in certain areas.

    As for participants. As long as all parties involved submit to those private operators, and their decisions, no other laws would appear to broken – not withstanding the absention of the actual judicial system.

    However, the question of who is funding those private operators remains.

  • “no other laws would appear to broken”

    What if the submission is under duress?

  • joeCanuck

    However, the question of who is funding those private operators remains.

    If they are working full time. If part time, pro bono?

    Any idea?

  • Pete Baker


    The assumption is of voluntary submission.

    Obviously, if co-erced, other legal considerations come into play.

  • Pete and Joe,

    You might be interested in this SDLP briefing [doc file]:

    Government defence (of its CRJ guidelines): That this is necessary for the peace process.

    SDLP reaction: But nothing justifies endangering the safety of the most vulnerable, particularly children. Further, as the International Monitoring Commission points out, far from facilitating the peace process, this may entrench paramilitarism. (Annex A).

  • joeCanuck

    Thanks for the info, Nevin. Quite enlightening.

  • Pete, coercion and paramilitarism go hand in glove.

    The two Governments wouldn’t implement a similar restorative justice system in the rest of these two islands and you can be fairly sure they’d clamp down very quickly if our lot tried to ply their trade in, say, Buncrana or Ayr.