Further development needed before accreditation under Government Protocol becomes a reality for CRJI

An inspection by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) of community-based restorative justice (CBRJ) schemes operated in nationalist areas by Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI) has found the schemes to be carrying out work which is valued by local communities.

The report however indicated that further development was needed before the CRJI schemes inspected in Belfast and in Londonderry/Derry would be ready to seek accreditation under the Government’s community-based restorative justice Protocol.
“As part of the inspection, Inspectors interviewed clients of the schemes and independent observers such as priests, school heads, voluntary organisations, business and community leaders and local politicians. We also examined the files kept by the schemes,” said Brendan McGuigan, Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland
“We were impressed by the commitment shown by volunteers and staff, but feel that if the schemes are to be successful in securing accreditation from Government, they need to formalise their relationships with the criminal justice agencies to meet the stringent requirements of the Protocol”, he said.
CJI pointed to a need for staff and volunteers to be ‘trained up’ in respect of the Protocol and for the schemes to adopt clear, standardised record-keeping that can provide the basis for future inspections.
The Inspectorate also recommended the establishment of an independent complaints system which clients could use if they felt their case had been handled in an unsatisfactory way.
The Deputy Chief Inspector said that the work undertaken by Criminal Justice Inspection had found no evidence that the schemes were controlled by, or acting as a front for, any paramilitary organisation.
“If we as Inspectors had found evidence that coercion was being used to force people to cooperate with the schemes or uncovered any other unlawful practice we would not have hesitated to say so”, he stated.
Mr McGuigan confirmed that the schemes were developing working relationships with the PSNI, but that these were at different stages in different areas. He said that this progress was to be welcomed, and would need to be carried forward.
“CJI believes that, if they continue on these lines, the schemes have the potential to operate in accordance with the Government Protocol. 
“CJI stands ready carry out a future inspection whenever the schemes declare they are ready to operate in accordance with the Protocol, but the ultimate decision on accreditation for CRJI will rest with the Government”, he concluded.