CRJI given approval to seek Government accreditation for restorative justice schemes

Community-based restorative justice schemes operated by Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI) have made improvements to how they operate, according to an independent inspection report published today (27 June 2008) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland.

The next step, according to the report, will be for nominated staff and volunteers to be assessed by the Government’s Suitability Panel with a view to obtaining accreditation under the Government Protocol for community-based restorative justice (CBRJ) schemes.
“When CJI first looked at the schemes operated by CRJI in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry in 2007, it found they were operating lawfully and were engaged in work that was valued in their communities,” said Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“However, Inspectors judged they still had some way to go before they met the requirements of the Government Protocol. CJI recommended the schemes should re-present themselves publicly to show they were a service for all sections of the community, and that they should to continue to distance themselves from any activities not supported by the PSNI,” he said. 
Mr Chivers continued: “When Inspectors returned to assess the schemes at the end of March this year, they found steady progress had been made and the schemes had made attempts to engage more widely with the community.
“Relations between the schemes and the police have improved steadily over the past nine months. The police confirm that from their point of view the schemes are behaving correctly, and are in general referring appropriate cases on to them. The relationship will no doubt continue to develop if and when accreditation is granted,” added the Chief Inspector.
Inspectors noted that the schemes have put in place an internal complaints procedure which can be used to refer complaints to one of two external, independent persons. 
“While CJI welcomes this, Inspectors consider that a fully independent complaints body, reporting to the Secretary of State, should be set up in addition to the schemes’ own complaints mechanism,” said Mr Chivers.
“We recommend that the eight schemes operated by CRJI in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, together with their two head offices, should now be accredited subject to the findings of the Government’s Suitability Panel. 
“CJI will continue to inspect the schemes on a regular basis to ensure that the rules of the Government Protocol are being adhered to. Should we at any stage find anything improper in the operation of any of the schemes, we shall not hesitate to say so,” concluded the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice.