Improving access to restorative justice

Shane Rattenbury, MLA

The ACT Government has today introduced new laws into the Legislative Assembly to give victims of crime improved access to restorative justice.

Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury said that the Crimes (Restorative Justice) Amendment Bill 2018 will also help keep young people out of the criminal justice system.

“Currently, only offenders who accept responsibility for offences (excluding family violence and sexual offending) are eligible to participate in restorative justice,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“Under these reforms, the eligibility threshold for offenders under the age of 18 years has been changed to include those who do not deny committing an offence, if it is of a less serious nature.

“Restorative justice empowers victims of crime to participate in a safely guided process that promotes offender accountability and gives victims an opportunity to express how an offence has affected them and others close to them.

“Participants in a conference can make agreements towards repairing psychological and emotional harm victims have experienced as a result of someone else’s actions.

“If the matter is referred prior to a court sentencing the offender, a judge or magistrate may take into account an agreement drawn up in a restorative justice conference on behalf of victims.

“Allowing young people, who haven’t made formal admissions at the point of their arrest, the opportunity to be referred to the restorative justice scheme provides a platform for them to face up to the consequences of their actions in a non-adversarial environment, leading to positive outcomes for both victims and offenders.

“These reforms will also allow victims of crime to access referral to restorative justice for matters where the offender has already been sentenced, without the offender being immediately informed that a referral has been made.

“This approach will allow victims of crime time to consider whether restorative justice will be beneficial for them before offenders are approached to consider participating.

“These amendments, developed in close consultation with key community stakeholders, will ultimately support more victims to access restorative justice, to assist their recovery following a traumatic event as well as reduce the number of young offenders in the criminal justice system.

“Work continues to support the referral of sexual offences and family violence offences for restorative justice.  This is expected to commence later in 2018, and will complete the Government’s roll out of all stages of the restorative justice scheme.”