Dr Stephen Farry said: “Alliance is pleased that the NIO are going out to a second round of consultation on the creation of community-based restorative justice protocols.
“Restorative justice is a sound concept which can make a contribution to dealing with low-level offences. Most restorative measures can be conducted by statutory agencies, but there is a demand for some community-based schemes which need to be regulated.
“Given the considerable influence of paramilitary organisations in certain communities and their relationship with many such schemes, there is naturally great concern across the community that restorative just projects will become a backdoor method for paramilitaries to continue exerting control and to subvert the normal policing structures.
“These latest draft protocols go a long way to addressing the flaws in the original document. Notably, there is a much tighter requirement on organisations to work directly with the police, yet Alliance is keen to ensure that this requirement is made watertight.
“Alliance’s three outstanding areas of concern are:
“First, the protocol only addresses any scheme’s potential involvement with criminal offences. Projects will be able to involve themselves in other areas of anti-social behaviour without any accountability.
“Second, there is a need to ensure that not only those with criminal convictions, but also those who are suspected of being involved with paramilitaries, are excluded from being staff members of such schemes.
“Third, Alliance is keen to ensure that all those involved in such schemes are required to take part in comprehensive training in advance of their involvement.”