A lack of understanding about restorative justice continues to be one of its biggest challenges, according to the sole provider of the service in Taranaki.
Taranaki Restorative Justice Trust chairman Senior Sergeant Malcolm Greig said people had different understandings about what restorative justice was and what it tried to achieve.
"The idea is that victims feel empowered and offenders show empathy," Mr Greig, who has been the involved with the trust since 2007, said.
Restorative justice involves a facilitated meeting between offender and victim to talk about what happened and the impact it has had on the people involved.
It focuses on holding the offender accountable while giving a chance for the victim to have their say.
"It's an opportunity for victims to tell the offender directly about how the offending has impacted on them," trust manager Rebecca Crowe said.
The trust was recently awarded the Ministry of Justice contract to service the New Plymouth and Hawera District Courts following a national tendering process.
Mr Greig said the trust was "elated" with the result and it meant more conferences being available in Taranaki in the areas of adult pre-sentence and diversion, as well as new funding for family violence cases.
"From my point of view it has validated the work we have done on the ground," he said.
Mrs Crowe said it also highlighted the depth and length of experience the trust has had in restorative justice field.
The trust had 11 trained facilitators passionate about restorative justice and who followed best practice standards set by the Ministry of Justice, she said.
Mrs Crowe, who had been manager since November 2012, said new funding for family violence cases gave the trust an opportunity to work alongside others to develop a process that worked best for both victims and offenders.
"There is a lot of work to be done in expanding the service around family violence, but we're not alone in that," she said.
A nationwide Government funding boost of more than $4 million for restorative justice services came into effect last week, following announcements in May's Budget.
This money will fund 2400 more conferences for the period to the end of June 2015.
According to the Ministry of Justice, the Government was confident of the contribution restorative justice could make to its key targets of reducing reoffending and victimisation.
Services in cities such as Auckland and Christchurch have been expanded as part of the funding and it has been introduced in areas such as Gore.
HOW IT WORKS
- Offenders aged 17 and over who are granted diversion or plead guilty to charges in court are eligible.
- The process is voluntary for both victim and offender.
- A remand is granted by the judge for a meeting to take place.
- Agreements between offenders and victims can be made at meetings and monitored to ensure they are completed.
Source: Ministry of Justice
Deena Coster is a Witt journalism student
- © Fairfax NZ News
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