Source: (2004) Papers presented at the Third Conference of the European Forum for Victim-Offender Mediation and Restorative Justice, 'Restorative Justice in Europe: Where are we heading?', Budapest, Hungary, 14-16 October. Downloaded 22 September 2005.

The Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 established the Youth Justice Agency, which consolidates criminal justice services for young people. Part of the new Agency is the Youth Conference Service, which works upon the principles of RJ. This significant development represents a commitment by the government to the principles of RJ within the youth justice system. The theoretical basis of Youth Conferencing in Northern Ireland is a ‘Balanced Approach’ model. This model examines the relationships between the victims of crime, young people who commit criminal offences, and the wider community. As the Youth Conference Service develops, it is involving a widening range of members of the community in supporting both victims and young people to meet their respective needs, and thus to contributing to a safer community. This development takes place within the historical context of sectarian crime and crime against the state, and, increasingly, hate-based crime, particularly against the growing numbers of minority ethnic communities and cultures in Northern Ireland. The challenge for the Youth Conference Service is to implement RJ practices within communities which, whilst continuing to be divided along the traditional catholic/protestant lines, are increasingly diverse in terms of minority ethnic and gay communities. The introduction, through legislation, of RJ to the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland is an exciting and challenging innovation, which flows from the Good Friday Agreement and can make a significant contribution to the building of the principles of equity, diversity and interdependence within all communities. Author's abstract.

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