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Restorative Justice Pilot Takes Off

Courts Minister Matt Robson today announced Auckland / Waitakere, Hamilton and Dunedin District Courts as the three sites for the new court-referred restorative justice pilot.

“The $4.88 million four-year court-referred restorative justice pilot, announced in the Budget, is designed to give victims of crime the option of restorative justice within the court system,” Matt Robson said.

“The justice debate has focused almost obsessively on who is tough and who is soft on crime. The question we should ask is ‘what works?’ The pilot will help us to answer this question.

“Restorative justice responds to the failure of the present system to meet the needs of victims and make our communities feel safe. Victims’ needs are paramount, and offenders face the full consequences of their crime and its effect on a victim.

“In establishing this pilot New Zealand is set to become a leader in the world wide movement towards the adoption of restorative justice principles within the court system.

“Our re-conviction rates are far too high, some of the highest in the world. Up to 80 percent of prison inmates re-offend within 24 months. That is an appalling figure.

"Putting an offender face to face with their victim in a controlled environment so they see and hear the hurt they've caused, is a more effective wake up call than just putting an offender in the dock to glare across a court room.

“The new court-referred restorative justice pilot will focus on alternatives for more serious offenders, for instance those who commit burglary or theft, assault, or criminal damage. A restorative justice conference will only take place if the victim chooses and the offender pleads guilty and agrees to participate. The restorative justice conference report will provide the judge with additional information to draw upon in sentencing relating to the harm caused to victims and the future reintegration of the offender in the community. The judge will continue to sentence in open court.

“A restorative justice conference is not an alternative to prison for serious offences that automatically carry a prison sentence. Since the focus of the court-referred pilot is on relatively serious offending, this means that many offenders will still receive a sentence of imprisonment.

“The new court-referred restorative justice pilot will be closely monitored and thoroughly evaluated in terms of the benefits delivered to victims and its effectiveness in reducing re-offending.

“The Department for Courts will be seeking expressions of interest from suitable groups to provide facilitation services to restorative justice conferences, and will provide training to those selected.

"Local liaison groups will be established to allow community representatives and local agencies and groups to have on-going input to the pilot as it develops. It is hoped to hold the first restorative justice conferences under the pilot by April 2001.

“The new court-referred restorative justice pilot will complement the various community-managed restorative justice projects currently in place around the country and will build upon the pioneering efforts of these community groups.

Matt Robson will be travelling to each of the chosen sites – Dunedin District Court on 7 September 2000 and Auckland and Hamilton District Courts on 8 September 2000 – to discuss in detail the pilot with local community and justice sector representatives and other invited guests.

Ends

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