Source: (2002) British Journal of Criminology 42:616-634

Although the last few years have seen considerable advances in the theoretical clarification of restorative justice as well as proliferation of programmes putting the ideas into practice, there are still some important questions that remain unresolved. These revolve around the issues of the range of cases and offenders for which restorative justice is appropriate, and the extent to which restorative justice needs to incorporate due process safeguards and standards such as proportionality, which are important in formal criminal justice. After reviewing some of the issues that have arisen in established restorative justice usages (juvenile justice; less serious offences) the article looks at more controversial applications—domestic violence, sexual assault—and examines the arguments for and against their suitability for restorative justice processes. It is suggested that arguments against extension to these ‘hard cases’ usually envisage restorative justice as diversion, while arguments for its application to these seriously harmful and antisocial wrongs advocate restorative justice as effective justice. The author concludes that questions of range and questions of standards cannot be dealt with in isolation, and that the wider the range of offences and offenders restorative justice deals with, the more it may merge with formal criminal justice.