Stephen Farry stated:
“The basis of these reports does seem to indicate a strengthening of the draft protocols tabled by the Government, but Alliance will await their formal publication before rendering judgement.
“Alliance has always been clear that community restorative justice
schemes must be a complement not an alternative to the legitimate criminal
justice system. At a time, when the PSNI is the most scrutinised and accountable police service in the world, it would be crazy for the government to legitimise such functions in the hands of outside organisations without putting in place similar safeguards.
“While restorative justice may have an important role in addressing low-level crime, people are rightly fearful that such schemes are only a further guise for paramilitary elements to exercise control over local communities. Those with a paramilitary past are entitled to play a role in their communities, but with those with a paramilitary present are not.
“I am encouraged by reports that all such schemes must work closely with the police. This must mean the police authorising the use of a restorative approach, and having full access to all evidence. There cannot be any scope for middle-men in this relationship. If the operators of such schemes are not prepared to recognise the lawful authorities in the state, then their commitment to operate in accordance with the highest human rights standards and the rule of law will inevitably be in question.
“Alliance is also concerned to ensure that any system for complaints and inspection is also matched by a system for verification of new projects before they commence and ensuring that those involved have been appropriately trained.”