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Regaining trust key to restorative justice

21 March 2014

Regaining trust key to restorative justice

An inaugural professorial lecture by Victoria University of Wellington’s new Chair in Restorative Justice will argue that the need to restore trust is at the core of restorative justice.

Professor Chris Marshall, who is internationally acclaimed for his pioneering work in the restorative justice arena, and a qualified restorative justice facilitator and trainer, took up the position at the beginning of the year. He says that restorative justice provides the mechanisms to enable a victim to be able to regain trust in a person who has done them wrong—something the mainstream criminal justice system doesn’t always do.

“Rebuilding trust requires such things as honest explanation, apology, accountability to others,making good the damage done in some way—the sorts of things you would do in any relationship.”

Professor Marshall says international research on the restorative justice approach often shows a reduction in reoffending rates.

“However, its greatest success lies in the high satisfaction rates of victims who participate in it. The healing for victims this approach can deliver is hugely significant.”

Professor Marshall says that while restorative justice has its roots in the youth jurisdiction, use of restorative justice “conferencing” is now well established throughout New Zealand’s criminal justice system and is increasingly employed elsewhere as well, including in schools, workplaces, the military, social work and human rights work.

“This expansion of application is great, but it creates real problems for how we define the field. Some advocates emphasise the 'justice' part of the label, while others emphasise the ‘restorative’part.”

Restorative justice has received increased funding in recent budget rounds, signalling increasing government interest in the approach.

“It still remains somewhat on the margins though. A major challenge for theorists is to explain how what takes place in a private encounter between the victim and the offender relates to the interests of the larger justice system.”

The Chair in Restorative Justice, based in Victoria's School of Government, provides a focus for collaborative research and teaching on restorative justice theories, policies and practices. Objectives include undertaking interdisciplinary research, contributing to public policy discussions, forging national and international collaborations, offering professional development opportunities for practitioners and professionals, and providing teaching and postgraduate supervision in restorative justice theory and practice at the University.

Initial funding for the Chair in Restorative Justice has come from a private family trust, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Department of Corrections, the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Defence Force, through the Victoria University Foundation.

Inaugural lecture: Restoring What? The practice, promise, and perils of restorative justice in New Zealand
Date: 25 March, 6.30–8pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, Ground Floor, Rutherford House, Pipitea Campus, Bunny St


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