Pre-sentence restorative justice (RJ) involves a meeting or conference between a victim, offender and their support people.
Conferences are private and run by trained facilitators employed by approved providers. RJ brings together those people affected by a crime – to talk about needs and obligations, to help healing, and as far as possible to put things right. The process often provides a way of helping participants to move forward.
For a case to be eligible for restorative justice:
- there must be an identifiable victim;
- the offender must have pleaded guilty; and
- both the victim and offender must give informed consent to the provider (but either can withdraw at any time).
The court referral process is initiated by either:
- a lawyer discussing restorative justice with an offender and letting the judge know if the offender wants to proceed; or
- a judge referring any eligible case to a provider.
When a case is referred to restorative justice, the court tells the provider, who assesses whether participants are willing to proceed and if restorative justice is appropriate.
The outcome of a restorative justice conference is taken into account by a judge at sentencing.
Family violence and sexual violence cases are assessed and managed by specialist facilitators working to new practice standards. Facilitators also have links to other specialist support services and treatment programmes.
A documentary about RJ, showing scenes from conferences, is available at www.maoritelevision.com.