But the new study, which interviewed victims, offenders and their families - as well as judges - has called for a new agency and pilot project to be established as a "matter of urgency" to facilitate meetings between victims and offenders.

The victim-centred pilot project would be confined to cases where convictions have been secured for crimes including rape and familial abuse amid concerns that Ireland's adversarial criminal justice system is "inherently ill-equipped" to address the psychological impact of sexual crime....

"This ground-breaking report highlights the need for 'an additional justice system' for sexual crime, one that is not adversarial; where the victim is central to the process and where the offender is held accountable for the harm caused," said Ms Walshe.

The Sexual Trauma and Abuse: Restorative and Transformative Possibilities study found that many victims who had never experienced restorative justice or who knew little about it had been thinking, imagining and even "fantasising" about questions they wanted answered by the offender.

Although fearful of how the actual event might be, victims had "a deep need to understand the motivation behind the crime and to confront the offender".

The study says that restorative justice is not for everyone, but victims should have a choice on whether it is part of the criminal justice system or runs alongside it....

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