Restorative Justice Steps
Restorative Justice matters follow the steps below:
- Suitability Assessment
Offences can be referred to restorative justice at any stage of the criminal justice system.
The following agencies, known as referring entities, can refer at the following stages:
1. After caution or apprehension but before a prosecution referral is made:
2. After a prosecution referral is made, prior to entering a plea, but before a second mention hearing:
3. Unless or until the offender pleads guilty after a second mention hearing but before the end of a case management hearing or case status inquiry:
4. If the offender pleads guilty or is found guilty but before the end of the proceeding:
- Office of Children and Young People
- Restorative Justice Unit
ACT Policing, Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts may continue to prosecute an offence as well as refer the offence to restorative justice.
After an offence is referred, the Restorative Justice Unit is responsible for assessing whether the referral is 'Suitable' for restorative justice.
At each step the entity that referred the offences to RJU is advised of the outcomes.
Once the Restorative Justice Unit (RJU) receives an eligible referral from a referring entity for an offence, the referral is allocated to a convenor.
The convenor is responsible for assessing and preparing the victims, offenders and supporters. This often takes more than one meeting. The assessment process seeks to:
- explain restorative justice and inform the participant of any implications that their participation may have on the management of criminal proceedings
- discuss the participant’s perception of the offence, the impact it has had on them and others and explore what they think needs to happen to make things better
- determine their suitability to participate in a conference, and
- obtain informed consent from each suitable person to participate in a conference.
When considering the suitability of a referral, the convenor takes into account a number of general and personal factors surrounding the offence. These include:
- each participant’s personal characteristics
- each participant’s motivation for taking part
- the impact of the offence as perceived by each participant
- the nature of the offence, including the level of harm caused and any violence involved
- the appropriateness of restorative justice at the current stage of the criminal justice process
- any potential power imbalances between the people who are to take part in restorative justice, and
- the physical and psychological safety of anyone who is to take part in restorative justice.
If a matter is found suitable, a conference will be organised. If a matter is found not suitable the referring entity, the victim and offender is notified. The referring entity will then make a decision on what to do next.
When a referral has been assessed as suitable for restorative justice and all the participants have been prepared by the convenor, they then begin to exchange information with the convenor’s help. This exchange of information is called a conference. Conferences can happen either face-to-face or indirectly (such as third party mediation, taped recordings or letter exchanges).
The conference process brings into contact those people who have been affected by an offence. This includes the victim, their family and friends and the offender and their family and friends. Other people, including police informants, witnesses, community representatives and case workers, may also be invited by the convenor to participate in a conference.
Participants, in consultation with the convenor, decide what type of RJ conference will be best for them - face-to-face or indirect. Whichever method is decided upon, the conference follows a set format. Specific questions are asked by the convenor and everyone gets the chance to answer these questions.
In face-to-face conferences, participants meet at a time and location agreeable to them. The most common locations include the Restorative Justice Unit, a school, a community centre or at the victim's place of work (such as a shop). Conferences usually take about one or two hours and participants sit in a circle to share information.
Indirect conferences can be held in a variety of ways including taped recorded interviews, telephone conferencing, email/letter exchanges or via the convenor who communicates information between people.
In both face-to-face and indirect conferencing, specific questions are asked by the convenor and everyone gets the chance to answer these questions.
It’s a three-stage process:
1. What happened?
The offender is asked to talk about what led up to the offence, what happened during and after the offence.
They will also be asked to talk about who they think has been affected by what happened and how they think those people have been affected.
2. How were people affected?
The victim is asked to talk about the offence and how they, and others close to them, have been affected by it.
The victim's supporters and offender's supporters will also get a chance to talk about how they have been affected by the offence.
This process allows the offender to hear about the impact of their actions. They may find out some things about the offence that they didn’t know.
3. What needs to be done to make things better?
The convenor invites everyone to talk about what they think needs to happen to make things better. The discussion focuses on specific activities or commitments the offender can make to the victim and other participants.
The specific activities and commitments that come out of this discussion form an agreement between the offender and the victim.
Agreements are formed after the conference participants discuss the offence and decide on what will assist the victim and offender to move forward. Agreements usually focus on three main themes:
- What the victim wants or needs to help make things better,
- What the offender can offer to do to repair the harm or repay for the damage that resulted from the offence, and
- What the offender can do to prevent the offending behaviour from happening again.
Agreements commonly include:
- an apology – verbal or written,
- a work plan (for example voluntary work or study) to be carried out by the offender for the benefit of the victim or the community
- a work plan to address the offending behaviour (for example counselling)
- financial reparation, and/or,
- anything else that would help repair the harm caused by the offence.
Agreements cannot require an offender to be detained or humiliated in any way and must be fair and achievable. They must not require the offender to perform any unlawful act and they must not cause distress to the offender or any other person.
Agreements are signed by the victim and offender and cannot extend longer than six months from the date the agreement is made.
There is no obligation on any participant to sign an agreement. Participants may also seek legal advice before signing an agreement.
The convenor will support and monitor the offender's compliance with the agreement on a regular basis. The victim and the referring entity will be notified about whether the agreement is complied with.