1. Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) is a process
based in the community in which low level crime
and anti-social behaviour is addressed through mediation. CRJ
schemes have operated in Northern Ireland since 1996 under two
main umbrella organisations: Northern Ireland Alternatives (based
in mainly loyalist areas); and Community Restorative Justice Ireland
(based in predominantly republican areas).
The schemes emerged in response to a growth in "punishment
attacks" carried out by republican and loyalist paramilitary
organisations on young people who had allegedly engaged in anti-social
behaviour. The stated
primary aim of the schemes was to provide a non violent alternative
to such attacks through restorative justice activity in which
anti-social behaviour is addressed through a process of mediation
between perpetrators and victims.
2. In addition to restorative justice, the work of
CRJ schemes involves the resolution of neighbourhood and family
disputes, the diversion of young people from possible offending
behaviour, and crime prevention. It is important to stress that
all the schemes are voluntary, funded mainly by charitable sources,
and currently operate without any formal regulation.
3. In March 2000, the Criminal Justice Review Group,
which had been set up following the Belfast Agreement signed on
Good Friday in 1998, recommended that community based restorative
justice schemes could play a role in addressing "the types
of low-level crime that most commonly concerns local communities",
but that safeguards were required.
The report made clear that the schemes should be accredited and
subject to standards laid down by Government in respect of how
they dealt with criminal activity, staff training, due process
and proportionality. It recommended that CRJ schemes should receive
referrals from a statutory criminal justice agency, rather than
from within the community, with the police being informed of all
4. In December 2005, the Government issued "Guidelines"
for public consultation to govern the operation of community restorative
justice (CRJ) schemes.
The consultation ran until 24 February 2006. In response to concerns
raised, the Government amended the Guidelines and relaunched them
as a "draft Protocol" in September 2006.
Public consultation on the draft Protocol ran until 13th
5. Given the seriousness of the concerns raised in
the responses to the Guidelines, the Committee decided on 12th
October 2006 to undertake an inquiry into the draft Protocol,
specifically to examine:
"the provisions of the draft Protocol and the
responses of interested parties to the Protocol."
6. We are grateful to the Rt Hon Lord Clyde, former
Justice Oversight Commissioner, Mr Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector
of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, Mr Brian McCaughey, Chief
Probation Officer, Mr Ronnie Spence, Chairman of the Probation
Board for Northern Ireland, Ms Olwen Lyner, Chief Executive of
the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement
of Offenders (NIACRO), Mr Pat Conway, Director of Services, NIACRO,
and Dr Duncan Morrow, Chief Executive of the Community Relations
Council for giving oral evidence to the Committee in Westminster.
7. On 4th December 2006, we visited, and
held informal meetings with, two CRJ schemes in Northern Ireland:
IMPACT in Kilcooley, Bangor, a project of Northern Ireland Alternatives;
and CRJ Ireland in West Belfast. We are very grateful to Mr Mark
Gordon, Manager of Kilcooley Community Forum, Mr Jim Martin, Senior
Project Officer, IMPACT, and Mr Jim Rea, Assistant Project Officer,
IMPACT, for making arrangements for our visit to Kilcooley and
for the accounts they provided of the project's work. We are also
grateful to the project volunteers, the local PSNI Inspector and
Community Beat Officer, and community representatives, who attended
the informal meeting, and to the young people we met who told
us about their experiences of IMPACT. We are also very grateful
to Mr Jim Auld, Director of CRJ Ireland and Mr Harry Maguire,
Training officer, CRJ Ireland, for arranging our visit to their
premises in West Belfast. We also thank the project officers and
volunteers, the victims, offenders and others who had engaged
in the schemes who kindly gave up their time to meet us and to
discuss their experiences of community restorative justice. Both
visits were invaluable to the Committee.
8. During our visit to Northern Ireland, we also
took formal evidence from Mr Tom Winston, Manager, and Ms Debbie
Watters, Training Officer, Northern Ireland Alternatives, and
Mr Jim Auld, Director, and Mr Harry Maguire, Training Officer,
CRJ Ireland, Sir Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of the PSNI, and Assistant
Chief Constable Drew Harris. We are grateful to all those who
gave public oral evidence to the Committee in Northern Ireland.
The day after our return, we also took formal evidence from Mr
David Hanson, MP, Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office
with responsibility for Criminal Justice. Before concluding our
deliberations on this Report, we had an informal evidence session
with Dr Garret FitzGerald, former Taoiseach; no detailed notes
were made, but Dr FitzGerald presented and spoke to a paper that
is printed together with the other evidence that we received.
1 The question of defining "low-level crime"
is discussed at paragraphs 49 to 55 Back
Community Restorative Justice Ireland was formally set up in 1999. Back
An evaluation of the work of CRJ Ireland and Northern Ireland
Alternatives in promoting non violent alternatives to paramilitary
punishment attacks has been carried out by Professor Harry Mika,
Queen's University Belfast, and is due to be published soon. Lady
Sylvia Hermon was interviewed as part of the research for this
Review of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland, para
9.98, p 216. The Review Group was charged with conducting a wide
ranging review of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland
(other than policing and certain aspects of the emergency legislation).
The Group was made up of four civil servants and five independent
Northern Ireland Office Consultation on draft Guidelines for
Community based Restorative Justice Schemes December 2005 Back
See further paragraph 30 Back
Ev 104-106 Back