The delivery of restorative justice approaches are primarily a matter for the Irish Youth Justice Service strategic partners - An Garda Síochána and the Young Persons Division of the Probation Service. Restorative justice in the context of youth crime was introduced on a statutory basis for the first time in the Children Act 2001, as amended. There are two restorative justice initiatives provided for in the Act: a restorative conference or restorative caution included in the Garda Diversion Programme and a court-ordered restorative justice family conference delivered through the Probation Service.
An Garda Síochána use Restorative Justice processes in the delivery of the Diversion Programme under Part IV of the Children Act, 2001, as amended. Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs) are trained as Restorative Justice Practitioners and in Mediation Skills. The latest Annual Report of the Committee to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme indicates that JLOs dealt with over 900 cases using a restorative justice approach where a crime was committed by a young person. In addition since 2010, the report indicates that eight 8 JLOs qualified as trainers in restorative practices and collaborated with local communities and other agencies, in particular, the Probation Service in delivering training and developing restorative practice communities. Restorative Justice philosophy has also been introduced to Garda Youth Diversion Projects which are managed by the Irish Youth Justice Service and operate on the basis of a strategic partnership between IYJS, An Garda Síochána and community based organisations. Since 2011, facilitator skills training in Restorative Justice has been rolled out to Youth Justice Workers working in the projects.This training programme is ongoing during 2013.
Young Persons Probation (YPP) works within the Children Courts nationally to implement all relevant requirements of the Children Act 2001, (as amended) in particular Part 8 (Probation family conference) and Part 9 (orders relating to community supervision) of the Act.
All Young Persons Probation staff have been trained in the preparation, delivery and action planning/monitoring which are essential to the Probation family conference (Part 8 of the Children Act 2001 as amended). Conferences are convened at the request of the Courts within 28 days and subject to the satisfactory production and completion of the action plan, there is an option for full diversion from the Criminal Justice system. The Probation Service in conjunction with its partner agencies has also introduced and consolidated a number of Restorative Practices/approaches in the management of court ordered supervision in the community and more infrequently supervision following a period of detention. These include, victim awareness/empathy work, Restorative conferences (not court ordered but part of supervision contract with young person and parent), Victim Impact Panels which include community volunteers and Victim/Offender Mediation. YPP staff have received accredited training in Restorative Practices and the majority of dedicated staff are now up skilled in this area. This training is frequently provided on an interagency basis.
While I am satisfied with the work undertaken to date and the ongoing developments in the roll out of restorative justice initiatives, I will continue to monitor the impact of these latest developments in conjunction with the criminal justice agencies involved, and the results will be taken on board in considering future developments in this area.