Department of Justice publishes new draft Protocol for Restorative Justice

Date published: 27 February 2023

The Department of Justice has published a new draft protocol governing the use of restorative interventions in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.

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A review of the 2007 protocol was launched last year by the then Justice Minister, Naomi Long, with the overall aim of improving outcomes for victims, communities and defendants. 

The review was undertaken by an independent three-person panel of experts who considered the adequacy of the existing protocol and sought to establish a fresh approach to the increased use of restorative justice.   

The panel members are Professor Tim Chapman, Dr Neil Jarman and Judith Gillespie all of whom have a wealth of knowledge in respect of the criminal justice system and community based restorative practice.

Richard Pengelly CB, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Justice said: “The review report published today sets out a new approach for the use of restorative interventions as part of the criminal justice system.   There has been a significant growth in the use of restorative practices in Northern Ireland and it is therefore incumbent on us to build on that positive work and to introduce a revised protocol that will help and support that growth even further.”

The report details how a new accreditation process will work for both organisations and individuals, in addition to meeting specific training standards.   Those seeking accreditation must work to fundamental standards of upholding the rule of law, adhering to human rights standards and working with all criminal justice agencies, including the PSNI. 

The Review Panel expressed their thanks to all those who engaged in the work.  They said: “We have met with a wide range of stakeholders including victim/survivor support groups and voluntary and community organisations.  We have consulted across a wide spectrum of Government bodies and academic and statutory stakeholders from across the criminal justice system.  We thank everyone for having their say.   We are very grateful to those who took the time to assist with this review and for the frank and thoughtful contributions we received.”

Mr Pengelly concluded “We are delighted to publish this review report today and will work closely with our criminal justice partners as we move to finalise the protocol in the coming months.”

A copy of the report, including the new Protocol, can be downloaded from the Department’s publication section of this website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. In 2007 a protocol was put in place to govern relations between the NI Criminal Justice System and the community-based restorative justice schemes.  As the scheme had been in place for over 14 years, there have been calls for a review of the Protocol and its operation to be carried out, with the aim of increasing appropriate referrals from statutory bodies and expanding the work of restorative practice generally.
  2. The review was carried out by Professor Tim Chapman, Dr Neil Jarman and Judith Gillespie.  Pen pictures of the panel members are contained in the published report.
  3. For media enquiries contact the Department of Justice Press Office via Email
  4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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