Top judge sees restorative justice potential

Last updated 05:00 18/09/2012
Sir David Carruthers
Sir David Carruthers

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New Zealand needs more restorative justice and more support for victims is one way to achieve that, according to the new head of the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Sir David Carruthers is a former chief judge of the district court, former principal judge of the youth court and former chairman of the Parole Board.

Sir David will discuss restorative justice at Waikato University's annual Harkness Henry lecture next week.

Restorative justice is the process of resolving crime by focusing on redressing the harm done to victims while holding offenders to account.

According to Sir David, it is a process that could begin long before an offender enters the legal system.

He said Waikato University research about restorative justice in schools had been adopted and was enjoying success in several schools throughout New Zealand and overseas.

It aimed to keep the aggressor, for example a bully, in school rather than suspending or expelling them.

Sir David said the value in this was clear as the increased chance of a young person staying out of legal trouble if they were in education was widely documented.

He said that, in terms of the criminal justice system, restorative justice could happen before or after sentencing but it came down to the individual victim whether they wanted to be involved.

"I think people have got to make up their own minds." However, Sir David believed more victims would attend family or restorative group conferences if they were offered more support themselves and this, in turn, could help decrease incarceration rates.

"I think we've got a very high prison rate when you compare it with other comparable countries."

Sir David said New Zealand had not always got restorative justice right in the past and it was not always going to be appropriate in the future, but he thought there was a lot of untapped potential in the area.

"I don't have a vision of a fully restorative country.

"We'll continue to be individuals who make our own minds up."

Sir David's lecture is open to the public next Tuesday, September 25, at 6.15pm at the university's Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts.

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- Waikato Times

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