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A Restorative Justice Conference

A Restorative Justice Conference

How does a restorative justice conference work?

 

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In level two practices, in a formal restorative conference, you would want at least 90 or 95% of the work to take place prior to it. I’m sure it’s the same in mediation [inaudible 00:23:09]. The preparation is essential, especially in a more complex case. You would have the facilitator, first of all, firstly doing a risk assessment. Like any risk assessment, it’s very subjective. What you’re looking for is, is there a chance of harm to any party? If there is, it’s maybe worth discontinuing the process. It could be physical harm but primarily it would be emotional and psychological. If the victim just isn’t up to it, for example, then they obviously can’t be coerced into participating. Or there might be cases where the offender has agreed to participate, but maybe it’s a clear indication that they’re not going to take it seriously. That could be quite devastating for victims, so you want to stop it in that situation.

 

The facilitator would also have a number of meetings with every single person who’s going to participate, in which they try and work out… You know, they don’t want to be surprised. They want to know exactly what people are going to say, more or less, and exactly what’s going to happen. They want to be able to understand the likely dynamics between the participants. One problem might be, for example, that if you have a child as the offender, their parents might talk over them or interrupt them or do any number of things. The facilitator needs to be aware of what’s going to happen beforehand in order to try and prevent it from happening.

 

In terms of the process you would basically have everyone in circle has to say why they are there, and what their relationship is with the incident. Then you would have these series of what I call the restorative questions. That would be, what happened from your perspective? How has it affected you? Who else do you think has been affected? Stuff like that. It’s meant to be “addressing the harm.” Then once that’s gone around, and it might go around a couple of times, there might be some debates.

 

Although typically, in almost all cases, the offender is required to plead guilty prior to this. You have to have the offender accepting responsibility for the incident. That gets more complicated when it’s used with non-crime incidents or even with criminal cases. You might have, quite often, that they’re both offenders and they’re both victims, in reality. Or in non-crime situations like a community dispute, various disputes over the facts of the case and they have to deal with that. Then you would move on to designing an outcome agreement, where everyone would get a chance to say what they think the outcome should be. Then the facilitator has to try and put something together. Ideally, in theory, everyone is supposed to put it down on paper and everyone is supposed to sign it and that’s it.

About the mediator

Ian Marder Profile Pic

Ian is a criminologist and Ph.D. student studying restorative justice at the University of Leeds’ School of Law, where he also lectures on the subject. He was born in Canada, but has spent most of his life in Northern England. He has conducted research for a number of organisations, including Restorative Solutions, the Restorative Justice Council, Search for Common Ground and the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs. He is trained as a ... View Mediator