JIS News

Lay Magistrates of St. Thomas have expressed optimism to the concept of restorative justice being introduced into the country’s justice system.
At an annual general meeting last week, Lay Magistrates of the Morant Bay chapter of the Lay Magistrates Association were introduced to the concept by a team from the Ministry of Justice, which has embarked on a sensitisation campaign to introduce and spur debate on the subject.
Restorative justice places its emphasis on repairing harm caused by conflict and crime. Crime in this case is classified as being a violation of people and relationships, and a disruption of the peace of the community and is not only just an offence against the state. The underlying values underlined in the concept of restorative justice are based on respect for the dignity of everyone affected by the crime.
Participants of the programme, that is the perpetrators or the convicted persons, are empowered to communicate their thoughts, feelings and regret in an open, honest way to the victim.
Speaking with JIS News following the presentation, legal officer in the Legal Reform Department of the Ministry, Tara Evans pointed out that the Ministry would continue with its islandwide sensitisation campaign.
“We are at the stage now where we are initiating discussion and wherever there is a request we will endeavour to go and talk about restorative Justice,” she noted.
Referrals to a restorative justice process can occur at all stages of the criminal justice system, including the pre-charge, diversion, post-sentencing and post-release from custody in appropriate cases.
It is important to note that discussions between victim and offender may not be used in any subsequent legal process and that the admission of responsibility for the offence cannot be used against the offender in any subsequent legal process.
Another tenet of the process is that if there is a failure to reach, or to complete a restorative agreement, it must not be used in any successive criminal proceedings to give reason for a more severe sentence than would otherwise have been imposed on the offender.
Regular maintenance and upgrading of the restorative Justice programme is encouraged and this should be done based on sound principles and established goals.