Thanks to everyone who came along to the Facing Forward Opening Evening

A great turn out for the Facing Forward Opening Evening Wednesday 17th June where we discussed the work of Facing Forward, the developments, challenges and possibilities in having Restorative Justice used in cases where harm and /or serious crime has occurred. Thanks to everyone who came along.

Report from Facing Forward Open Night 17th June 2015

 

“In a mere quarter century, restorative justice has grown from a few scattered experimental projects into a social movement” (Howard Zehr and Barb Toews)

The truth of that statement was very evident on 17th June last, when Facing Forward held its annual Open Meeting in the Carmelite Centre in Whitefriar Street.

The meeting drew an attendance from across the restorative justice spectrum – from advocates to activists, from the juvenile probation service to representatives of victims of serious crime, and from the prison chaplains to members of the legal profession – all united in a strong commitment to advancing the role and practice of restorative justice in Ireland.

Former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske comes to Ireland

After introductions Barbara Walshe, Chair, Facing Forward, gave the meeting a comprehensive account of the group’s activities over the past year.    Among those the visit to Ireland of former Milwaukee Supreme Court Judge Janine Geske, at the invitation of Facing Forward, was undoubtedly one of the highlights.   During her time in Ireland she met with representatives of the Bar and Judiciary, including the Chief Justice Susan Denham, along with prison governors/personnel and members of the Probation service.   She also delivered a number of training courses on restorative justice and practice, including a well-attended workshop during the International Mediation conference in the Kennedy Institute, Maynooth, in September.

Research Report published

Undoubtedly the most significant development during the year was the completion, and publication, of the collaborative study on the potential of restorative justice in sexual crime in Ireland: Sexual Trauma and Abuse: Restorative and Transformative Possibilities (here).  Led by principle investigator, Dr. Marie Keenan of UCD, with consultant Bernadette Fahy and Facing Forward, it reported from a broad range of interested parties (survivors, offenders, families, judiciary, media, therapists, bishops, religious leaders etc.) who all strongly endorsed the value of restorative justice as an additional mechanism within the criminal justice system to foster accountability and healing.   Victims, in particular, believe that restorative justice should be available to all who require it.  The report has been circulated widely and will provide a basis for much of Facing Forward’s advocacy work over the next year.

Victim-Led Restorative Justice

Facing Forward promotes, and advocates for, victim-led restorative justice.   The EU’s Victims’ Directive, due to be enacted into Irish law before 16th November next,  will be the subject of a round-table conference, organised by Facing Forward, for relevant stakeholders in the autumn.   Currently, the proposed legislation does not mention restorative justice as an optional process to be offered to victims, so a major effort will be needed if that situation is to be reversed.   Also over the next year the group will continue to provide training in relation to restorative justice and serious crime, it will hold awareness-raising seminars separately with victim and offender groups and will also conduct two restorative circles that include surrogate victims, and offenders.

There was a lively discussion at the end of the presentation and a flavour of the main points is given below:

  • It is vital to put restorative justice into practice because it is the best process for connecting people heart-to-heart and healing broken relationships.
  • Forgiveness is not the primary aim of a restorative process, it may happen or it may not.
  • No independent mechanism currently exists that can connect a victim with their offender or visa versa, should they require one, we need one.
  • There has to be a better way than the current criminal justice system.   The old Brehon law system is still deep within us.
  • Restorative justice has been around for a long time but is still not widely known.   To be effective it needs to have a statutory basis and we have to work to make this happen.
  • There is a wealth of experience in the room, how can we harness this critical mass to ensure that the legislation implementing the EU Victims’ Directive includes the option of restorative justice procedures?
  • Rather than continuing with incremental small steps, is there a case for developing a blueprint of how restorative justice might work throughout the criminal justice (and other) systems, if money and resources were not a problem?
  • Our vision is the Belgian system where every victim and offender can ask for an opportunity to try restorative justice; this is supported by all the legal entities.   We need to get the support of a government minister for this.
  • Facing Forward is a movement for victim-led restorative justice, in cases of serious crime.   International research into serious crime has shown that restorative justice produces good results.
  • For the future Facing Forward should be able to demonstrate what restorative justice looks like and how it works; it should put together a business case for implementing restorative justice procedures and it should have standards in place for a good practice model.

Mary Curtin, Facing Forward Management Committee

Download presentation Facing Forward Open Night 17th June 2015