Restorative Justice

The main purpose of a legal process is to ensure that any finding of legal guilt is evidence-based, that any sentence is fair and proportionate, and that violations of the law are denounced in a public arena. However, even after this work has been completed, a range of other issues remain.

For example, those who have been harmed by the offence may have a number of questions about matters that never came up, or were never adequately explained within the investigation or the judicial process. They may need to talk freely and openly about the impact that this has had on their lives, without worrying about the legal parameters of what they can or cannot say. They may feel that their experience and their loss has still not yet been heard or acknowledged by the person responsible for the crime, and that they have yet to see any remorse or hear an apology. They may want to be reassured, in a direct way, that the person responsible will take steps to address the underlying causes of their criminal behaviour so that it will not happen again.

Again, a person who committed the crime may have been held responsible by the justice system insofar as they have been prosecuted and sentenced. But they may feel that they have not yet taken responsibility for their actions. They have not expressed their remorse or offered a sincere apology to those who were directly or indirectly harmed by their actions. They have yet to make amends for the personal harm and suffering they have caused.

These are the kind of needs that a Restorative Justice process is designed to meet.

Restorative Justice Service

The Restorative Justice Service is managed by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice. It has been in operation since 1999, and all the Restorative Justice Facilitators have received specialised training.

The purpose of the Service is to provide those who are eligible with the opportunity to take part in a safe and voluntary Restorative Justice process. This can be done in variety of ways. For instance, the process can involve a facilitated face-to-face meeting or a letter exchange. The process that is used will depend on the specific needs and wishes of the participants.

Restorative Justice must be voluntary. So in this Service, if a person responsible for the offence takes part in a process, this will not have any impact on their sentence, security classification or parole. This means that a Restorative Justice process can only take place after they have been sentenced, and once any appeal or civil action has been finalised. Depending on the circumstances, a process can be held either while the person responsible is serving a custodial sentence, on parole, or after their order has expired.

Who can take part?

A range of participants can be involved in a Restorative Justice process, depending on their needs, wishes, risks and availability. These include the following:

  • Person Harmed: a person who has been directly or indirectly harmed or affected by the criminal offence.
  • Person Responsible: a person who has been sentenced in NSW for a crime.
  • Support Person: an individual who the person harmed and the person responsible can each invite to support them in the process (e.g. a parent, carer, sibling, extended family, partner, friend, or professional working with them).

All participants must be over 18 years old or accompanied by a guardian.

What are the benefits?

Restorative Justice gives a person harmed by the offence the opportunity:

  • to ask questions and receive answers which only the person responsible for the offence can provide;
  • to explain to the person responsible how the offence has affected their lives;
  • to put forward ideas about how the person responsible can address the harm they have caused.

The person responsible for the offence has the opportunity:

  • to answer questions about what happened and why;
  • to face the full human impact of their offence by hearing first-hand the experience of those who were harmed;
  • to offer an apology for their offence and its resulting impact;
  • to come to an agreement about how they can address the harm.

How does a Restorative Justice process work?

Phase 1. The Facilitators meet with the person harmed and the person responsible separately to explain what is involved in the process. This gives them time to make sure that Restorative Justice is likely to meet their needs before agreeing to take part.

Phase 2. The Facilitators help participants to prepare before communicating with each other. This gives them an opportunity to think about what they want to say, how they want to say it, and what expectations they might have.

Phase 3. The participants communicate in a way that suits their needs and wishes. This can be done by meeting in person or by exchanging information through the Facilitators.

Phase 4. If participants agree to a plan, then it is put into action. The Facilitators can help participants keep to their agreements and arrange follow-up meetings or additional care and support.

Testimonials

Some of the victims and their friends and family have shared their thoughts and feelings after being involved in the Restorative Justice Service. Here is what they had to say:

Debbie met with the man who shot her brother 8 years earlier:

  • "I can’t explain how come I feel so different than I did before the meeting. The only way I can explain it is, I feel lighter. Please don’t think this is a miracle cure of anything, but for me in a way I got back my life, I got back me."

Kevin met with two people who robbed him 18 months earlier:

  • "I could see that they were sincere and their remorse was genuine. I felt better about them after the meeting and I must say I feel differently about the event these days."

Val met with the man who murdered her daughter 10 years earlier:

  • "You know basically who did it, and where, and when, but it's the little details you keep thinking about and [the offender is] the only one who knows the answers. So I thought 'here’s my chance to find out’."

Ron’s son killed a man in a driving accident. Ron’s whole family met with the victim’s wife.

  • “My boy did his time (in gaol), but he knew it wasn’t over until he’d apologised to (the man’s wife). We all wanted to apologise to her. We even wanted to say something at court but we were told not to approach her. (The meeting) was good for us all.”

Sharon met with the man who killed her daughter 7 years earlier:

  • “I will never stop grieving for my daughter. But when I heard (the offender) accept full responsibility for the crime, I stopped carrying the guilt around. A burden has been lifted from my shoulders.”

Information Leaflets

Referral Forms

Please save these Forms to your computer before filling them in. Completed forms can be emailed to restorative.justice@dcj.nsw.gov.au

Contact information

Please contact us if you would like to know more about taking part in a Restorative Justice process.

Phone 02 8688 0567

Email restorative.justice@dcj.nsw.gov.au

Location: Level 8, 160 Marsden St, Parramatta NSW 2150

Last updated:

11 May 2023

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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