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  • Debate on a Bill to provide for the implementation of restorative justice procedures in the formal justice system began in the House of Representatives on July 19.
  • The Bill seeks to provide the Court with discretion to refer a matter to a restorative justice programme prior to the commencement of a trial.
  • Debate on the legislation will continue at the next sitting of the House.

Debate on a Bill to provide for the implementation of restorative justice procedures in the formal justice system began in the House of Representatives on July 19.

The Bill seeks to amend the Criminal Justice (Reform) Act, the Child Care and Protection Act, the Corrections Act and the Parole Rules.

This will be done under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Restorative Justice) Act 2016, which was piloted by Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck.

In his remarks, Mr. Chuck said the Bill stems from the National Restorative Policy which Cabinet approved in 2012.

“The policy has given birth to the adoption and use of Restorative Justice Practices in communities throughout Jamaica. Restorative Justice is essentially a system of justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large,” he noted.

Mr. Chuck said Restorative Justice aims to support the positive transformation of society by equipping citizens and communities at large with more effective and peaceful means of conflict resolution and responding to wrongdoing.

“To date, Restorative Justice Programmes are being employed in 10 communities throughout Jamaica. Three of these communities are in Kingston and St. Andrew – Trench Town, August Town and Tower Hill,” Mr. Chuck said.

He added that the programme is also in the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon, Westmoreland and St. James.

“We intend to add two more communities to this list in the current fiscal year. Additionally, there are restorative justice centres, three each in Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Catherine, two in Clarendon and one each in St. James and Westmoreland,” the Minister noted.

Mr. Chuck said these centres serve as facilities where citizens can actively seek amicable resolution of their disputes, whether by mediation or other means.

The Bill seeks to provide the Court with discretion to refer a matter to a restorative justice programme prior to the commencement of a trial.

“The Court can also make this referral upon the recommendation of a Clerk of Court or a Constable. The Act currently provides only for referral to mediation. This is, therefore, an added restorative justice measure. As with the option of mediation, the court will consider the circumstances of the matter and require the consent of the parties involved,” Mr. Chuck said.

He pointed out that any admission disclosed for the purposes of restorative justice proceedings is confidential and inadmissible in any court or tribunal proceedings.

“Further, an alleged offender’s consent to participate in the restorative justice proceeding or his or her performance of any commitments made under a restorative justice agreement will not be considered as a confession or admission of guilt,” Mr. Chuck added.

The Bill also provides for the Minister to make rules regarding the procedure to be implemented upon referral to a restorative justice programme, the conduct of such programmes and the forms to be used in connection with the programme.

Restorative Justice seeks to reduce criminal case backlog by diverting cases from the formal justice system and also resolving conflicts at the community level.

It also seeks to reduce recidivism by addressing the underlying causes of criminal behaviour and supporting the constructive reintegration of the offender into the community.

Debate on the legislation will continue at the next sitting of the House.