Guidelines support victims in phase 3 RJ program

Shane Rattenbury, MLA

Ways to expand interagency collaboration and offer more flexible support for vulnerable groups were key themes in submissions about new guidelines to support phase three of ACT’s restorative justice scheme.

Phase Three will see restorative justice extended to include family violence and sexual offences. The ACT Restorative Justice Unit has been consulting on steps and protections in place for victims and offenders.

A number of submissions about draft guidelines were received from close to 20 government agencies and community sector groups, and the unit will now work closely with these stakeholders to finalise the guidelines.

Feedback to date has been positive, with the view that many victims want to have the option to participate in their own justice process.

Restorative justice referrals for family violence and sexual offence matters will most often occur after an offender has entered a plea or the matter has been dealt with in court. Diversionary referrals for less serious matters will be considered in exceptional circumstances only.

Restorative justice processes are not an alternative to the prosecution of a family or sexual violence offence, but rather, sit alongside the criminal justice process.

Stakeholders recognised the assessments in determining a participant’s suitability for restorative justice must be robust as outlined in the guidelines. Practical advice to improve referral procedures, and to ensure the needs of vulnerable groups are met, was also welcomed as part of the consultation process. Phase 3 guidelines are expected to be finalised in coming months.

Comments attributable to Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury:

“Restorative justice is a voluntary and respectful process that gives victims the opportunity to have a say about what happened to them—to seek and receive answers to their questions, and for the full extent of abusive behaviour to be acknowledged.

“Restorative justice also provides offenders the opportunity to take responsibility, explain their actions, listen and learn about the broader impact of their actions on others and to actively contribute to making amends.

“I am pleased government agencies and victim focused community sector groups are working to ensure victims can choose to have a facilitated exchange with their offenders either face-to-face or indirectly and address issues that may not have been possible to deal with in the criminal justice process.

“Government agencies and community sector groups suggested stronger information sharing arrangements so that the safety of the victim remains a priority throughout the restorative justice process. We will certainly take this advice on board.

“I am looking forward to the implementation of phase three when victims of all offences will be able to access this important scheme.”