Inspectorate publishes latest assessment of community-based restorative justice schemes

An independent inspection examining the activities of community-based restorative justice schemes operated by Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI) has found the majority of work undertaken does not meet the threshold for inclusion under the Government’s Protocol for community-based restorative justice.

The latest follow-up report by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) is the first carried out by the Inspectorate since CRJI secured accreditation under the Government Protocol.
 “In this report CJI set out to examine progress against recommendations made at the time of the Inspectorate’s last inspection and to assess whether CRJI’s work was meeting the standards and relevant criteria of the ‘UN Basic Principles on the use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters’, said Brendan McGuigan, Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“Inspectors also sought evidence to establish if CRJI was adhering to and handling cases in accordance with the Government Protocol since the schemes’ accreditation and if they were operating to an acceptable standard,” said Mr McGuigan.
A file review carried out as part of this inspection found that the majority of cases dealt with by CRJI were below the level required for reportable crime. This was confirmed to Inspectors in conversations with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
“Inspectors also found that since securing accreditation, only one case had been referred by CRJI to the PSNI under the Government Protocol which highlights a need for the current Protocol to be reviewed,” added the Deputy Chief Inspector.
Despite this, Inspectors found a number of positive developments have occurred in the three years since its last inspection.
The Deputy Chief Inspector continued: “CRJI now enjoys positive working relationships with a wide range of statutory bodies including the PSNI, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI), Social Services, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and Belfast, Lisburn and Derry City Councils.
“CRJI has become an important part of the voluntary and community sector landscape in parts of Northern Ireland and are integrating their activities as part of local community safety networks.
"The inspection found that despite four recommendations being fully achieved and one partially achieved a number of issues still remain to be addressed.
“Some political representatives remain critical of the schemes and argue that key figures within the schemes are politically partisan – a perception which is fuelled by the inability of CRJI to attract individuals from different political backgrounds to join the management committees of its community-based restorative justice schemes. We would encourage CRJI to continue to strive to address this issue,” said Mr McGuigan.
In addition, CJI has urged CRJI to undertake additional work around its complaints policy to ensure it is effective and efficient and meets the standards that can be reasonably expected of a voluntary or community organisation working within the criminal justice sector.