National Child Diversion Consultant, Ruth Carey, says that acceptance of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a means of settling conflicts outside of the courts will require a culture shift.
Ms. Carey, who was addressing a recent JIS Think Tank, said that many persons view the use of ADR processes in the criminal justice system, such as restorative justice, mediation, arbitration and child diversion, as giving the offender “a slap on the wrist”.
This perception, she noted, may result in persons being quick to dismiss ADR as ineffective.
Ms. Carey said that increasing public understanding of the rehabilitative nature of ADR is critical in getting wide acceptance of the methods.
She noted that in the case of child diversion, for example, the offender is held accountable for the crime or wrongdoing and is required to undergo a programme to repair the harm done, as part of the rehabilitation process.
“If they are non-compliant, they will return to the justice system even as much as we are trying to achieve our goal of having children not institutionalised. So, I think that is an important process,” Ms. Carey pointed out.
In addition to reducing the number of children charged with offences and exposed to the formal criminal justice system, the National Child Diversion Programme mandates State agencies, non-governmental and community-based organisations to become active participants in providing services and programmes to children.
In addition, communities are empowered to take a more active role in dealing with child offenders with antisocial behaviours.
Child diversion aims to protect the rights of the child in keeping with international instruments and protocols.