Restorative justice boost with changes

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Recent changes to sentencing legislation have had a positive impact on restorative justice in Oamaru.

An amendment to the Sentencing Act 2002, which came into force on December 6, 2014, means a court must adjourn proceedings to consider whether a restorative justice process is appropriate if there is an identifiable victim.

In Oamaru, restorative justice is undertaken by Project Turnaround, which is administered by the Waitaki Safer Community Trust on behalf in the Ministry of Justice.

Project Turnaround co-ordinator Derek Beveridge said they had already been undergoing a reasonable percentage of restorative justice processes before the legislation came into place but there had been an increase in numbers in the past few months.

Restorative justice is a process which aims to prevent recidivist offending, and statistics from elsewhere confirmed the new legislation should have a beneficial effect, he said.

“I think it’s a positive thing for New Zealand.”

The impact of the legislation and numbers would also increase as time goes on, he said.

The process could only happen if both the victim and offender agreed and because there had been an increase in the number of cases where there was potential for the restorative justice process to be undertaken, there had also been an increase in the number of people that did not want to participate, Mr Beveridge said.

This could also be because Oamaru is a small area with many offenders and victims who know each other and already retained an understanding relationship, he said.

The co-ordinator said the restorative justice process is positive for both offenders and victims because it brings both parties together and helps them realise what the other is going through.

“Quite often with offenders having to face victims they actually empathise them and vice versa.”

Project Turnaround deals with about 100 restorative justice cases a year.

By Ruby Harfield