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Restorative Justice — Is More Better?: The Experience of Police-Led Restorative Cautioning Pilots in Northern Ireland

O'Mahony, David
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Howard Journal of Criminal Justice. 43(5):484-505.

Under the two programs, juveniles (under 17 years old) who committed an offense were diverted from formal prosecution through a formal caution under a restorative justice approach. Evaluation researchers conducted fieldwork from September 2000 to April 2001. All case files (n=1,861) handled by the juvenile liaison officers in the 2 areas over the duration of the project were reviewed. Attention was given to the types of cases that came to the attention of the liaison officers and how the cases were resolved, categorized as “no further police action,” “advice and warning,” “caution,” or “prosecution.” The conferences typically consisted of the officer inviting the juvenile to state in his/her own words what they had done to warrant police action. This was usually followed with a question about the youth’s motivation for committing the offense. The facilitator would then inquire about the actual and potential consequences of the act for the victim (not present), the juvenile’s family, and the juvenile himself/herself. The conference would result in a cautioning agreement that might include expression of remorse, agreement to pay for damage, a written apology to the victim, and agreement to perform certain duties or engage in prescribed behaviors. Evaluators conducted interviews with 29 participants, their parents, and their victims. All participants valued the philosophy underlying the programs and viewed their implementation as appropriate and effective; however, there were two major areas of concern identified by evaluators, i.e., the risk of “net-widening” (drawing offenders into police processing who would have previously received only a verbal caution or warning from police) and the lack of significant victim participation in the programs. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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