A restorative justice conference is an exchange of information between an offender and a victim, most commonly, a face to face meeting.
The purpose of restorative justice in the ACT, generally, is to:
- Provide victims with an opportunity to talk about how an offence has affected them and others close to them.
- Provide offenders with an opportunity to accept responsibility for their actions.
- Provide offenders with an opportunity to repair the harm done.
- Provide victims, offenders and their supporters an opportunity to meet, to discuss the harm and what may be done to repair that harm.
Who may attend a restorative justice conference
A restorative justice conference consists of the following people:
- the victims and their supporters such as family and friends
- the offenders and their supporters such as family and friends
- the convenor (a person trained to facilitate restorative justice processes)
- other participants who may be invited such as police informant, a community representative, a school teacher or sports coach.
Advantages for the victim
The victim/s of a crime have an opportunity to say how the crime affected them and play an important part in deciding how the harm is repaired. They have the opportunity to tell offender/s how their behaviour affected them and their family, and how the offender/s should make amends for their actions.
The victim's family and friends are also invited to participate in the restorative justice conference, giving support to the victim.
Advantages for the offender
Restorative justice can happen at any time in the criminal justice system:
Instead of going to court: The advantage of a successful restorative justice conference is that the offender does not have to appear in court and a conviction is not recorded. If the offender participates in the conference and completes the terms of their agreement, the matter will not be taken any further by police. Offenders are given the opportunity to be made aware of the consequences of their unacceptable behaviour.
The family and friends of the offender are also invited to attend and, by participating in the conference, provide support to the offender.
As well as going to court: If the incident goes to court, after the offender has participated in restorative justice, the court may consider whether the offender has accepted responsibility for the offence. But the court is not required to reduce the sentence as a result. This means the court can reduce the sentence because the offender has participated in restorative justice but is not required to reduce the sentence.
Once the court has sentenced you: The court may use restorative justice as part of the offender's sentencing and suspend final sentencing until the conference has been finalised.