Is restorative justice effective?

There are limitations to restorative justice:

  • It relies on voluntary cooperation from the victim and the offender. If neither is willing, then there is no option but to let formal justice (the courts) take its course.
  • Restorative justice involves the community, so there has to be a community that is supportive and caring. People in the community have to want to work together for the good of everybody.
  • Restorative justice would not be suitable for serious crimes, such as murder or rape, where it is important to take measures to protect the rest of society.
Research in the UK and elsewhere has confirmed that about 75% of victims are satisfied with the results of mediation. Many victims felt less angry and fearful, experienced a degree of emotional healing and were able to say that the offender had not been let off too lightly. Mediation has also been shown to have a significant impact on offenders and may prevent them from re-offending in the future.

Restorative justice in Northern Ireland

Restorative justice plays an important role in many local communities. During the The Troubles it came to be seen by many as a positive alternative to the paramilitary policing of some areas.

Today there are schemes in many areas which otherwise would have a higher than average level of crime and anti-social behaviour. Examples include parts of north and west Belfast, Newry and south Armagh, and the Creggan and Brandywell areas of Londonderry.

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