Alliance Party Justice Spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has recognised that the “Guidelines for Community Restorative Justice” schemes, published by the NIO today are a significant move in the right direction, but set out some continued loopholes that need to be addressed.
Dr Farry stated:
“The draft guidelines issued by the NIO do constitute a major move in the right direction. At long last, discussions on Community Restorative Justice can move out of the shadows and into the open.
“The broad thrust of these guidelines is in the right direction. They specifically address some of the key points set out by Alliance last month, particularly with respect to referrals being filtered through the police, and the opportunity being provided for the police to conduct their own investigation and to gather evidence.
“Alliance can’t understand the logic of giving some schemes the ability to contact the police, indirectly through the Probation Board or Youth Justice Board. Quite frankly, if people are not prepared to accept the legitimacy of the police, then this calls into question their fitness to operate a CRJ scheme. CRJ can only operate in conjunction with the PSNI. There can be no equivocation on that point.
“There is a need for some further safeguards. Alliance believes that all referrals, not just for criminal offences, should be referred to the police. It is not for a CRJ scheme to determine what is and what is not a criminal offence. Furthermore, it would be quite wrong to have CRJ schemes running parallel operations regarding alleged anti-social behaviour without the equivalent scrutiny for criminal offences.
“Alliance also believes that statutory agencies should be formally represented on the boards of all CRJ schemes, and that the boards should be made be informed of all individual referrals too.
“Finally, where any CRJ scheme insists in operating in defiance of the formal NIO guidelines, they should have no legitimacy given to them by Government and any, even informal, co-operation from statutory agencies should be withdrawn. Where there is evidence that such schemes engage in coercion, the police should be called in to investigate.”