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Victims and Restorative Justice: Fulfilling Expectations? David OMahony, Department of Law, Durham University Campbell, C., Devlin, R., OMahony, D., Doak,

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Presentation on theme: "Victims and Restorative Justice: Fulfilling Expectations? David OMahony, Department of Law, Durham University Campbell, C., Devlin, R., OMahony, D., Doak,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Victims and Restorative Justice: Fulfilling Expectations? David OMahony, Department of Law, Durham University Campbell, C., Devlin, R., OMahony, D., Doak, J., Jackson, J., Corrigan, T., McEvoy, K. (2006) Evaluation of the Northern Ireland Youth Conference Service. Northern Ireland Office: Research and Statistical Series Report No.12 ce.pdf

2 Background Justice (NI) Act 2002 Youth Conference Service December 2003 Evaluation- Fieldwork: Dec 2003 to July 2005 Main methods: observations and participant interviews

3 The Research In total: – 185 conferences observed – 125 interviews with victims (86%) – 11 interviews with non-participating victims – 171 interviews with young people (92%)

4 Youth conferencing Two types of referral: – Prosecution – Diversionary – Court - Court Ordered Young person (10-17) must admit or be found guilty Young person must consent Mandatory referral process (must, may and may not) Mainstreamed Restorative Approach

5 Who can attend? - Young person - Appropriate adult - Police Officer - Youth Conference Co-ordinator Must be present otherwise conference cannot proceed. - Victim - Solicitor - Social Worker - Probation Officer Entitled to attend - Family members of the young person - Victim supporters - Professional from who advice is sought (e.g. social service, education welfare officer) May Attend (at the discretion of the co- ordinator)

6 Pre-conference Meeting with Young Person Explain purpose of conference Re-establish consent and assess suitability Prepare young person for conference Meeting with Victim Explain purpose of conference Understand victims position Assess victims level of participation Prepare victim for conference

7 The Conference Offender Supporter Offender Co-ordinator Victim Supporter Police Officer

8 Victim Participation Participation as attendance at a conference Victim present in 69% of the 185 conferences observed.

9 Victim Type – Victim representatives – 60% – Personal victims – 40%

10 Victim Type contd. The type of victim and impact: – The apology Never arose. If any apology, it would have been to the police. They were more the injured party (Victim representative). – Victimless crimes It is explained that the offence is against the general public. Young person, What is the general public? I dont understand what that means.

11 A Restorative Dynamic Young person, I wish the victim had have been down – to try and express my regret to him Co-ordinator, We would usually talk to the victim now but I have had a telephone call…he didnt want to get involved in the conference… Young person, It makes me feel bad.

12 Offence Type 47% of personal victims attended as a victim of assault The majority of victim representatives attended for the offence of theft or criminal damage

13 Motivations To hear what the young person had to say (88%): I wanted to hear what the young person had to say To explain the impact of the offence (87%): I wanted the young person to see how much it hurt me and not how much they thought it hurt me

14 Motivations contd. To help the young person (79%): I wanted to help the young person get straightened out I didnt come for myself but for the young person…the offence didnt really affect me in a big way

15 Motivations contd. Non-participation as choice: - a desire to move on - not wishing to meet face to face - offence not serious enough, I didnt think it was worth it, not a big enough offence Continued engagement with the restorative process? I would have liked to have seen what the result was

16 Conference Experience Preparation and engagement – Victims felt they were generally well prepared – Only 20% of victims were visibly nervous vs. 71% of offenders – 83% of victims were very engaged in process – 92% of victims felt they had said everything they wanted to – All victims felt they were given the opportunity to express themselves

17 Apology and Remorse 91% of victims received at least an apology – Only one personal victim did not receive an apology 85% of victims were happy with the apology made 91% of conferences with victim present, the offender displayed remorse

18 Youth Conference Plan Must contain one or more of the following and shall not last more than one year – Apology – Reparation – Payment – Supervision – Un-paid work (16 and over) – Activities – Restrictions – Treatment – Custody (Court decides term) Little guidance on proportionality/limiting principles

19 Devising the Plan 96% of victims were engaged in devising the conference plan 95% of victims were satisfied with the process of determining the plan 95% of plans were agreed

20 Elements of Plans Reparation 76% Help to offender 83% Rehabilitation 56% Punishment 27%

21 Best features of Plans Victims felt the best features were: – Helping the offender in some way – Preventing re-offending – Holding the offender to account Victim The best part was being given the opportunity to talk to the wee lad and hope he wont do it again. Also, I think the best part was talking to his mum and understanding her position

22 Court or Conference? Only 11% of Victims would have preferred if the case had been dealt with in court Personal Victim: Rather court? No, because [the young person] wouldnt have got help with his addiction, wouldnt have got the opportunity he has now. He has six months of help. Court more lenient? Not sure. Basically a sentence is over and done with. Now he has time to reflect on what he has done, to make amends as such. He has to engage in the help people are offering.

23 Negative feelings following conference 7% of victims felt worse following conference Victim: Im more negative about the process than I was before. …the offenders attitude and the fact that it was tolerated, …no one is reaching to the real offender. People are just reacting to his anger, not addressing it.

24 Victims Satisfaction 92% felt process was fair 98% felt their views were taken seriously 98% felt safe in the conference 88% would recommend conference to someone else in a similar situation

25 Overarching Themes Most victims are happy with conferencing Most victims positively fed into the restorative aspects of conferencing Most victims want to help the offender and few want retribution or vengeance Effective victim participation is resource intensive - need to avoid net-widening and concentrate on providing high quality service to appropriate cases

26 Further Reading Campbell, C., Devlin, R., OMahony, D., Doak, J., Jackson, J., Corrigan, T., McEvoy, K. (2006) Evaluation of the Northern Ireland Youth Conference Service. Northern Ireland Office: Research and Statistical Series Report No.12 ce.pdf See also website for Youth Conferencing Service: Doak J & OMahony D (2006) The Vengeful Victim. International Review of Victimology Vol. 13 pp


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