Victim-centred restorative justice: design and implementation challenges at the innovative justice interface

Rob Hulls1, Stan Winford2, Nareeda Lewers3

1 Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University, 106 Victoria Street Carlton, Victoria 3053, rob.hulls@rmit.edu.au

2 Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University, 106 Victoria Street Carlton, Victoria 3053, stan.winford@rmit.edu.au

3 Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University, 106 Victoria Street Carlton, Victoria 3053, nareeda.lewers@rmit.edu.au

Research tells us that the traditional criminal justice process can leave victims feeling marginalised, re-traumatised and with many questions left unanswered.

Currently victims of adult offenders in Victoria face a stark choice between a criminal trial process – or nothing. Yet no single justice response will have every answer for every context, so a diverse range of options is required.  If we are committed to better meeting the needs and interests of current victims and reducing the number of future victims, we need to re-think traditional approaches.

In the process of restorative justice conferencing, the victim is a central participant rather than merely a witness to an event. In a restorative justice conference, the victim has a voice, is able to explain the impact of the offending directly to the offender, and can seek answers in relation to unresolved questions about the offending.

The CIJ is implementing a victim-centred restorative justice conferencing program for those affected by a driving incident resulting in death or serious injury.  Serious driving offences can result in significant psychological trauma for all those affected.  Family relationships can be ruptured and whole communities can feel the effects.  Where there is an existing relationship between the victim and the offender, and/or shared social and community ties, victims may benefit from restorative justice conferencing. As part of the project, a number of conferences will be held and evaluated. This project will extend restorative justice conferencing to the adult criminal law system in Victoria.

This presentation will explore the challenges of moving from theory to practice when implementing a small scale restorative justice pilot, with a particular focus on the implementation challenges that arise when alternative approaches interface with the existing criminal justice system.

Biography:

 

As Victorian Attorney-General between 1999-2010, Rob Hulls instigated significant changes to Victoria’s legal system which saw the establishment of the state’s first Charter of Human Rights. He established specialist courts in Victoria including for Victoria’s indigenous community, for people with mental health issues, for people with drug addiction and for victims of family violence. He also opened up the process for the appointment of people to Victoria’s judiciary to ensure that more women and people from diverse backgrounds were appointed.

In October 2012 Rob was appointed Adjunct Professor at RMIT and was invited to establish the new Centre for Innovative Justice as its inaugural Director.  The Centre’s objective is to develop, drive, and expand the capacity of the justice system to meet and adapt to the needs of its diverse users. The Centre has facilitated the establishment of a multi-disciplinary practice on site with lawyers and social workers together with students providing holistic, wrap-around services to female prisoners in Victoria.

Stan Winford is Principal Coordinator, Legal Programs at the Centre for Innovative Justice where he is responsible for clinical legal education programs and managing a number of the Centre’s research projects, including the Centre’s work on restorative justice and user-centred design.

Stan is a practising lawyer who has held a number of senior roles in government and community legal services both in legal practice and legal policy. Prior to joining the Centre, Stan was Managing Principal Solicitor with the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office. Between 2007 and 2010, Stan was Senior Legal Advisor to the Attorney-General and Deputy Premier of Victoria and was involved in major reforms to sentencing, criminal procedure and evidence laws. Stan has also been the Principal Lawyer and Legal Projects Officer at Fitzroy Legal Service, where he led law reform campaigns and public interest litigation. Stan has published on justice issues and appeared in national and international media as a legal commentator. He is Chair of the Mental Health Legal Centre and a member of the Victoria Police “Taser” Review Panel.

Nareeda Lewers is the Restorative Justice Project Officer at the Centre for Innovative Justice.  Previously, she worked as a criminal lawyer at Victoria Legal Aid and in the community legal centre sector.  As a legal practitioner Nareeda was involved in therapeutic justice initiatives including the Assessment and Referral Court (ARC), a program at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court designed to respond holistically to offenders with cognitive disabilities and/or mental health diagnoses.  Nareeda has also worked in clinical legal education and in academic research.  She has published in the area of family law.

About the Association

The Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) is a research and educational institute associated with Monash University. It is funded by the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council (LCCSC) and also from subscription income from its membership.

The principal objectives of the Institute include research into judicial administration and the development and conduct of educational programmes for judicial officers, court administrators and members of the legal profession in relation to court administration and judicial systems.

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