With a wealth of experience in social work and from taking part in the pilot Restorative Justice programme with Mana Social Services in Rotorua, co-ordinator Lynne Whata helped launch the service in Wairarapa and said it was highly successful locally.
Two staff members facilitate a meeting between victim and offender giving the victim a chance to talk about how they feel and the offender the chance to put it right.
Cases are referred through the courts by judges but people can refer themselves as well. The vision of the service is to do what is right, be self-aware and be compassionate to all.
“I’ve been passionate about restorative justice. I like it because it gives victims a voice. It restores mana … it has worked in every case so far. You can see the offender be remorseful and you get to see the victim telling them how the incident has hurt them and their family. It’s healing for the victim and accountability for the offender.”
People can choose to take part in the process or not.
“They can opt out at any time but if they stay there it’s healing.”
The most difficult cases to work through were generally car accidents or a hunting accident where a death had occurred, Mrs Whata said.
“It can be very emotional for everyone involved. It’s hard not to let it affect you. Death can be a hard one. There is a lot of emotion from both sides. It’s awful. Most families are still grieving.” Offenders don’t often realise just how much harm they caused and often victims don’t know the reasons behind the offender’s actions until such meetings take place, she said.
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