Members of Facing Forward made submissions to the Oireachtas in relation to the inclusion of Restorative Justice in the enactment of EU Directive 2012/29/EU into Irish law. The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 (Number 28 of 2017) gives the directive statutory recognition in Ireland.
The following are some of the provisions of this wide ranging Act, which defines a victim as a person who has suffered harm including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by an offence. It introduces a number of statutory rights including:
- The right to comprehensive information on the criminal justice system;
- The right to information on victim support services;
- The right to be kept informed on the progress of the investigation and any court proceedings;
- The right to an individual assessment of their protection needs and measures to save them from further victimisation and intimidation.
- The right to be informed of a decision not to institute a prosecution and the right to request a review of that decision; and
- The right to receive information in clear and concise language and interpretation and translation where necessary.
Information on Restorative Justice schemes, where they are available, is among the raft of support services offered, at the discretion of the Garda Síochána or the Ombudsman Commission on initial contact.
A Restorative Justice scheme is any scheme in which both the victim and the offender, or alleged offender, consent to engage with each other to resolve matters arising from the offence, or alleged offence, with the assistance of an impartial third party who administers and facilitates it.
Section 26 of the Act sets out strict requirements in relation to the operation of a restorative justice scheme which are as follows:-
The administrator of the scheme must be satisfied that it is in the interests of the person who has suffered the harm to participate and also be particularly aware of the need to safeguard that person from secondary and repeat victimisation, intimidation or retaliation.
The person who has been harmed must
- receive full and unbiased information about:-
(i)the scheme and the potential outcomes of participating in it;
(ii)the procedures for supervising and implementing any agreement that may be reached between the parties in the context of it, and
(iii) his or her right to withdraw at any time his or her consent to participating in it, and
- once they have received this information, they must give their free and informed consent to participate in it.
The offender or alleged offender must
- acknowledge the basic facts of the offence, or alleged offence, committed, and
- give his or her free and informed consent to participating in the scheme.
Both parties must also be advised that
- any agreement they reach shall only be on the basis of their free and informed consent;
- also, with their consent, their agreement can be taken into account by a court in criminal proceedings relating to the offence, or alleged offence;
- discussions between them shall not be disclosed unless both parties consent or it is required by law.
The Act marks a significant step in recognising the needs of those harmed by crime and acknowledges their right to support. It also addresses the advantages that restorative conferences can bring both to both those harmed by crime and offenders, including alleged offenders.