Source: (-0001) Abridged version originally published in South African Journal of Criminal Justice, 1999[12], p62. South Africa: Institute for Security Studies.

The primary goal of victim-offender mediation is seen as compensating the victim for the loss suffered as a result of the crime by making the offender take personal responsibility for making good his loss. The programme gives the victim an opportunity to tell the offender how the crime affected him or her. The offender, has the opportunity to apologize, explain his or her behaviour and make some reparation or pay compensation (see South African Law Commission Issue Paper 8 Project 94 – Alternative Dispute Resolution 30). The reason for the interest in victim-offender mediation is the fact that the present system of criminal procedure in South Africa has the effect of marginalizing the victims of crime and even the Constitution is heavily biased towards the offender. Another problem that the criminal justice system faces is congestion of court rolls which makes it very difficult for matters to be tried speedily. As a result of these and other reasons there have been proposals for institutionalized mediation in the criminal justice system (see R. Palmer “Justice in whose interests? A proposal for institutionalized mediation in the criminal just system” (1997) 110 SACJ33). Not everyone, however, agrees that victim-offender mediation will serve the interests of the victims (see L. Meintjies van der Walt “Towards victims” empowerment, strategies in the criminal justice process (1998) 11 SACJ 157 at 168). Her argument that the goals of victim-offender mediation as set out above can also be achieved if the matter is dealt with through the criminal courts rests on the assumption that the offender is going to be convicted. My own experience in the magistrate’s court is that in the majority of assault cases, for example, there are no witnesses other than the victim and the offender and a conviction is therefore, not a foregone conclusion. (excerpt)

Read Full Article