Unicef toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention 2009 Examples of restorative justice project example #1 models of family group conferencing (fgc)1 fgc new Zealand model


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UNICEF Toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention 2009

Examples of restorative justice

Restorative justice project example #1
FGC - New Zealand model: A meeting at a time and place chosen by the family is attended by a young offender, their family, the victim, the police, a youth advocate when appointed, and any other people whom the family wish to invite. The conference is organized by the Youth Justice Coordinator who acts as facilitator and mediator between family and police, although the Coordinator can invite others to act as facilitator (especially if this is considered culturally important). Usually, after

introductions and greetings, the police describe the offence and the young person admits or denies involvement. If there is no denial the conference proceeds with the victim describing the impact on him or her of the offence. Views are then shared about how the mater could be resolved. The family deliberates privately, after which the meeting reconvenes with the professionals and the victim to see if all are agreed on the recommendations and plans advanced by the family.2

FGC - Australia, Wagga model: A meeting held as an alternative to traditional justice procedures is facilitated by a police officer. Those involved are: the perpetrator(s) and victim(s) of an offence, together with the families and friends of both the victims and offenders and others directly affected by the offence. Conferences are convened in cases in which the preliminary investigation has been conducted, where guilt is accepted and where the voluntary participation of both victim and offender is secured. Each conference is coordinated by a police officer (or

other official or trained volunteer), whose role is to encourage participants to express their feelings about the offence and to reach some collective agreement about how best to minimize the harm resulting from the offending behaviour. Agreements usually involve some arrangements for appropriate restitution and reparation. These arrangements are formally agreed to but are not legally binding.3

FGC - Australia, Canberra model: Following the pattern of the Wagga model of conferencing with or without the presence of victims or using community volunteers as stand-in victims where there has been no actual harm to a specific victim (as in drunk-driving or drug abuse offences).4
FGC - REAL Justice model: A scripted version of the Wagga conferencing model held, either as an alternative to, or in combination with, traditional criminal justice proceedings. It is facilitated by a police officer/justice official, school representative or community volunteer acting on behalf of such an official.5

Restorative justice project example #2
What is it?

A sentencing circle is conducted after the individual has been found guilty through a formal court process, or if the accused has accepted guilt and is willing to assume responsibility for the harm they have done to society and to the victim(s). The aim of a sentencing circle is to shift the process of sentencing from punishment to restoration of social relationships and responsibility. It provides a new alternative for courts to incarceration. The sentencing circle proves an opportunity to start the healing process for both the offender and the victim.

How does it work?

The offender is presented with the impact of their actions in front of respected community members, elders, peers, family and the victim and their family, stimulating an opportunity for real communication, increased mutual understanding and sustainable change.7 Officials such as a judge, lawyers for the prosecution and defence, and arresting police officer may also be present, but although the judge may intervene to guide the discussion and elicit responses from specific individuals present, the emphasis is very much on the participants to lead the discussions. The

process can last all day and each person present (up to 20 or more) is given equal opportunity to give their opinion in turn, going around the circle as many times as necessary in order to come to a mutually agreed settlement, usually involving apology and reparation. Cases have been reported where, at the end of a sentencing circle, as a result of the background circumstances becoming known, the initially hostile family of the victim have actually been moved to offer help to the offender.

Restorative justice project examples #3
The examples here are all taken from Chapters 3 and 4 of the publication Restorative Justice: How it Works, Marian Liebmann, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007. The majority are from the UK - unless otherwise specified.
Offenders_Separately:_Victims__Victim_Support'>Chapter 3. Restorative Approaches Involving Victims and Offenders Separately:

  • Victim Support (e.g. a national independent NGO with local branches, offering services by trained volunteers such as: some to talk to in confidence; information on police and court procedures; help in dealing with other organizations; information about compensation and insurance; links to other sources of help. May include a telephone helpline and referral to other organizations such as self-help and mutual-help groups).8
  • Victim Witness Service (e.g. support for witnesses called to give evidence; may be run as part of a broader ‘victim support’ programme; staff and volunteers offer: someone to talk to in confidence; a chance to see the court beforehand and learn about court procedures; a quiet place to wait; someone to accompany witnesses into the court room when giving evidence; practical help; easier access to people who can answer specific questions; a chance to talk about the case afterwards and get more help or information).9

  • Compensation through the courts (e.g. may be an additional penalty to be added to an existing sentence - for example probation - or it may be a sentence in its own right; compliance is much greater if it follows a mediation process where an offender comes to understand the need for compensation and becomes emotionally engaged with the process).10

  • Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (e.g. a scheme which provides compensation for victims of violent crime, whether or not the offenders are caught. The injury must be serious enough to qualify for the scheme. Financial awards may: recognize physical and mental injuries; compensate for loss of past or future earnings or special expenses caused by crime; recognize bereavement and in come cases compensate for loss of earnings of a person who has been killed).11

  • Escaping Victimhood (e.g. a week-long residential workshop for victims of serious crime and trauma such as serious assault or those bereaved by murder or manslaughter. May include: briefings about trauma and reactions, creative expression, relaxation, mediation and access to counselling, sharing of experiences).12


  • Children’s Hearings (Scotland) (e.g. interests of the child are paramount; involvement of children and parents; views of child must be taken into account; inter-agency cooperation and partnership; principle of minimum intervention. 3 trained lay panel members facilitate discussions amongst all stakeholders and decide on the measures to be taken). 13
  • Community reparation (e.g. offender undertakes unpaid work for the victim or in the community in general).

  • Priorities for reparation (e.g. from a restorative justice perspective / repairing harm to the actual victim, suggested priorities are in the following order: 1. Repairing actual physical harm; 2. Doing a task for the victim; 3. Community reparation at the victim’s suggestion; 4. Offering a gift to the victim; 5. Keeping the victim informed about community reparation done by the offender; 6. Repairing harm caused to other victims of similar crimes; 7. Reparation that reflects the nature of the offence (even if not for the specific victim); 8. Reparation building on the young person’s interests and skills but which is unrelated to the offence).14

  • Victim awareness work – individual / group (carried out in a non-punitive way; individual – e.g. a process which leads to writing a letter of apology to the victims (discussion of rights and responsibilities and the short and long-term consequences / impact of crime on victims; feedback from the actual victim; letter is delivered to the victim only if the victim is willing to receive it, otherwise it remains in the offender’s file); group – e.g. voluntary attendance at group activities (impact on victims; creating an ‘imaginary offender’ and identifying who is affected and how; role card questions; ‘when would you take a £10 note?’; exploring feelings when the offender has themselves been a victim; role plays of offender’s own crime).15
  • Circles of Support and Accountability for sex offenders (e.g. 5-6 volunteers are recruited (screened and trained) from a community where a high-risk/high-need sex offender will be living. In between weekly support network meetings, volunteers take it in turns to separately meet the offender, thus providing daily contact with a friendly person; the Circle addresses accountability and reports concerns regarding the offender’s behaviour to the authorities).16

  • Restorative justice and rehabilitation (e.g. help with accommodation, substance abuse, literacy and employment skills – key to reducing re-offending; needs may be identified through a restorative process and restorative processes may increase offenders’ motivation / commitment to make use of available rehabilitation services).17

  • Alternatives to Violence Project (e.g. voluntary 3-day workshops run by volunteer facilitators to develop non-violent conflict resolution techniques. 3 levels of workshops: 1. Building self-esteem, affirmation, trust and cooperation; exploring methods of communication; creative conflict resolution; 2. Underlying causes of violence such as fear, anger, stereotyping, power and powerlessness; communication and forgiveness in more detail; 3. Training for facilitators).18

  • Nonviolent communication (e.g. model developed by Marshall Rosenberg to move away from ‘blaming’ towards expressing needs so that these can be better met. Examines 4 stages: 1. Concrete actions we observe which affect our well-being; 2. How we feel about these actions; 3. The needs, values and desires which underlie these feelings; 4. Concrete actions we request in order to make things better).19

Chapter 4. Models of Restorative Justice Involving Victims and Offenders Together:

  • Victim-offender mediation (direct) (e.g. separate meetings with victim and offender to assess suitability followed by preparation, if appropriate, for direct mediation – including discussion of ground rules. Joint meeting which often involves: 1. Opening statement, introduction and ground rules; 2. Uninterrupted time – each person tells their story; 3. Exchange – opportunity for questions; 4. Building agreement, if appropriate; 5. Writing agreement, if appropriate; 6. Closing session, arranging follow-up; 7. Mediators’ debrief). 20

  • Victim-offender mediation (indirect) (e.g. relaying of messages sensitively, accurately and constructively. Any communication of apology (letter, tape, video etc.) needs to be genuine, come directly from the offender and should be delivered by a mediator in person in order to provide support for the victim who receives the communication. The victim may want to communicate in return. Examples include: 1. Information provided to the victim - about the offender’s reaction to the offence and clarification / reassurance that they will not be targeted again; 2. Communication by letter; 3. Letter of apology and possibility of video conference; 4. Shuttle mediation to arrange compensation). 21

  • Victim awareness work leading to communication with victims (e.g. group and individual victim awareness work with offenders described in Chapter 3 may lead to direct or indirect communication between offenders and victims).22

  • Community mediation (e.g. a local community mediation service can deal with cases referred to them by the police or other agencies such as local authority housing departments, or where they are approached directly by victims who do not want to report the offence to the police. Can prevent escalation of minor incidents into crimes).23
  • Victim-offender conferencing (e.g. also known as community conferencing, (small and large) group conferencing, restorative conferencing and diversionary conferencing. Can range from a meeting between one offender and one victim to a room full of stakeholders including family, community members and professionals. Requires the preparation of stakeholders beforehand, by phone or in person. If the victim is not present, the facilitator makes an input based on prior communication. Usually follows a formal script in cases where it is clear-cut who is the offender and who is the victim– although in situations where there is conflict and dispute, a mediation model may be more appropriate. Refreshments may be served at the end to promote informal interaction and build social relationships. An agreement may be written up and signed during this time). 24

  • Family Group Conferences25

    • Child welfare cases (e.g. professionals provide input into a plan devised by the child and their family to ensure the plan meets the needs of the child and the expectations of social welfare representatives. Promotes families finding their own solutions to problems. 4 main stages: 1. Preparation; 2. Information giving; 3. Private family time; 4. Agreeing the plan).

    • Criminal cases (e.g. New Zealand Model described in Project Example 1 of this document; or Essex Model (UK) which involves preparation followed by a 4-stage FGC: 1. Victim and offender dialogue; information-giving by professionals. Then the victim withdraws; 2. Welfare issues debated; 3. Private planning time for the offender’s family group; 4. All parties come back together to discuss the plan).
  • Youth Offender Panels (following Referral Orders) (UK) (e.g. made up of offender, their family, the victim (if they wish), member of the Youth Offending Team (responsible for preparations) and two trained panel members drawn from the local community (one of whom chairs the meeting). Other stakeholders may also attend such as a school teacher. Panel meets in an informal setting, away from court. Discussions around the circumstances / causes of the offending behaviour and impact on the victim lead to the development of a contract with the offender which may include reparation and involvement in activities to reduce re-offending. Similar to ‘conferencing’ described above, but with more emphasis on questioning the circumstances / causes of offending behaviour and preventing re-offending). 26

  • Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs) (e.g. an attempt to resolve ‘anti-social behaviour’ such as noise, verbal abuse and drunkenness before it reaches the stage of legal enforcement via Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBO). Police discuss the impact of the behaviour with the young person and jointly develop the ABC which is signed by the young person. Breach of an ABC can result in application for an ASBO. ABC facilitators should be trained in restorative processes to avoid ABCs being applied in a forceful, less constructive way).27

  • Peace-making Circles (formerly known as Sentencing Circles) (e.g. 4-stages: 1. Application process (to the convening authority); 2. Preparation: arrangements for the Circles (separate circles for victim and offender); 3. Sentencing Circles (victim and offender Circles may be merged at this stage – or if this is not appropriate, then Victims have a separate Healing Circle whilst the offender has a separate Sentencing / Healing Circle); 4. Follow-up Circles (may be more than one to ensure that the needs of the community, victim and offender are all met). Usually involves a ‘talking piece’ (e.g. feather, stick or stone) which is passed around. Participants can only speak if they are holding the talking piece. Sentencing Circles may or may not involve a judge as a direct participant. If consensus is not reached after 2 Circles, then the judge may make a decision based on information from the Circle process, or the matter may be referred back to the court). 28
  • Retail theft initiatives (e.g. Milton Keynes (UK): attempt to involve large stores in restorative approaches to shoplifting where store managers are too busy to be involved in mediation in each individual case. Weekly sessions are run by the police for first-time offenders where store managers from different large stores take turns to attend and represent the ‘victim community’ of shops and have individual interviews with offenders. Discussions include: why the offender chose the particular shop; effect of the offence on the shop, employees and other customers; possibility of the shop closing (if it is small); encouraging offender to apologise; consequences for the offender; ending on a positive note – condemning the behaviour not the young person. Depending on the case, the offender may attend further individual or group sessions to reduce re-offending and may be issued with a Reprimand or Final Warning. Wessex (UK): Each store affected on a regular basis by shoplifting nominates a manager sympathetic to young people to explain the problems caused. On a case by case basis a mediation worker contacts this contact person and calls at the shop with the offender for a 20-minute meeting to discuss the impact, apology and reparation.29

  • Victim-offender groups (e.g. victims who have experienced similar crimes meet with offenders who have perpetrated such crimes – but not the ‘actual’ crimes of these particular victims. Useful for victims and/or offenders who do not want to meet their actual offender / victim counterpart, or where an offender has not been caught. Some victims may follow up this ‘generic’ meeting with a meeting with the actual offender in their specific case).30

1 Taken from Wernham, M., An Outside Chance: Street Children and Juvenile Justice – An International Perspective, p.133.

2 Maxwell, G. and Morris, A., The New Zealand model of family group conferences in Family conferencing and juvenile justice: the way forward or misplaced optimism?, Alder & Wundersitz eds., Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra ACT, Australia 1994, cited in Giles, Prof. G.W., Turbulent Transitions, 2002, p.352

3 Moore, D.B., A New Approach to Juvenile Justice: An Evaluation of Family Conferencing in Wagga Wagga. A report to the Criminology Research Council, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales: Centre for Rural Social Research, Charles Sturt University, Riverina, Australia, 1995, cited in ibid, p.352.

4 Reintegrative Shaming Experiment, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra ACT, Australia, cited in ibid, pp.352-353.

5 www.realjustice.org, cited in ibid, p.353.

6 Taken from Wernham, M., An Outside Chance: Street Children and Juvenile Justice – An International Perspective, p.137.

7 http://www.usask.ca/nativelaw/publications/jah/circle.html

8 Adapted from Restorative Justice: How it works, Marian Liebmann, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007, pp. 53-54.

9 Adapted from Liebmann, op cit, p.55.

10 Ibid, p.56.

11 Ibid, pp.56-57.

12 Ibid, p.57.

13 Ibid, pp.58-59.

14 Ibid, p.62.

15 Ibid, pp.63-64.

16 Ibid, p.65.

17 Ibid, p.68.

18 Ibid, pp.68-69.

19 Ibid, p.69.

20 Ibid, pp.73-74.

21 Ibid, pp.76-77.

22 Ibid, p.78.

23 Ibid, pp.78-79.

24 Ibid, pp. 80-83.

25 Ibid, pp. 84-87.

26 Ibid, p. 90.

27 Ibid, p. 93.

28 Ibid, p. 96.

29 Ibid, pp. 98-100.

30 Ibid, p. 100.


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