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Public lecture - restorative justice

The controversial issue of restorative justice is the topic of a public lecture by Professor Erik Luna, Senior Fulbright Scholar, at Victoria University next Wednesday, 5 July.

Restorative justice is a process in which all the people involved in an offence – offender, victim, families and community representatives - come together to resolve how to deal with the aftermath and implications of the crime.

Under restorative justice schemes offenders typically have to undergo counselling, hold down a job and pay part of their wages to the victim.

“The system revolves around a facilitator who brings together offenders and victims in a neutral place and helps them to air their grievances and emotions,” says Professor Luna.

Earlier this month the New Zealand Government announced a restorative justice package worth $4.857 million over three years. The funding will pay for the introduction of new court-referred restorative justice projects and expand community-managed restorative justice projects.

"Restorative justice puts victims of crime at the centre of the justice system,” said Courts Minister Matt Robson, in announcing the package. “Victim’s needs are paramount, and offenders face the full consequences of their crime and its effect on a victim.”

“Restorative justice is our best chance at changing criminal behaviour.”

However, news of the package was met with disgust from victim’s rights campaigner Norm Withers, who said the scheme was a “bloody insult”, and scepticism from University of Canterbury Criminology Lecturer Greg Newbold, who said it was a “fad” that wouldn’t cut criminal offending.

In last year’s referendum on crime and punishment, nearly 92 per cent of New Zealanders said more emphasis should be put on victims’ needs, imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious, violent offenders.

Professor Luna is currently a Senior Fulbright Scholar at Victoria University, where he is researching New Zealand's restorative approach to juvenile justice. Family group conferences have been used in New Zealand’s youth court for some time.

Luna was recently appointed Associate Professor of Law at the University of Utah after serving as the Harry A. Bigelow Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

His primary scholarly interests are in criminal law, criminal procedure and constitutional law, and he has published extensively in these areas.

Prior to entering academia, Professor Luna was a criminal prosecutor and legal columnist in California.

His public lecture, “Emotion and Reason in Restorative Justice”, will be held at 5.30 pm on Wednesday 5 July, in Lecture Theatre 2, Rear Courtyard, Old Government Buildings, Victoria University Law School, 15 Lambton Quay.

Victoria University Wellington

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