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The challenges of implementing the restorative justice mechanisms in the Children Act 2001.

Sweeney, Kevin
June 4, 2015

Source: (2013) The Irish Review of Community Economic Development Law and Policy. 2(1):39-52.

As it becomes more evident that incarceration is failing to achieve its objectives, the greater the demand for
alternatives such as Restorative Justice. While Restorative Justice has, as one of its core objectives, the reintegration
of the offender back into his community, it faces a number of challenges in its implementation, some of which may
decide its ultimate effectiveness or its failure. Another core objective is the prevention of reoffending which it aims
to achieve by keeping young offenders away from association with hardened offenders in prison. But this is not the
first time that the political establishment have attempted to introduce an alternative to incarceration. By the end of
the 19th Century, in recognition of the ineffectiveness of prison, alternatives were legislated for. These efforts while,
like Restorative Justice, potentially radical for their time, not only ultimately failed to have a significant impact on
their core objective of preventing recidivism, but also eventually led to the scandals of abuse in the Industrial School
The reasons for failure principally resulted from a failure of leadership and direction, and the subjugation of the
proposals into mainstream criminal justice system, where they simply became an extension of the existing system.
In Ireland, the introduction of the Children Act 2001, the first serious attempt since 1908 at dealing with juvenile
antisocial behaviour, made provision for the statuary introduction of elements of Restorative Justice such as Family
Conferencing and mediation, it also placed the Juvenile Liaison Scheme on a statuary footing. This scheme, run
independently by An Garda Siochana, had been in operation for almost forty years at that stage. So, is Restorative
Justice as envisaged for Ireland truly a paradigm shift or is it something that is merely a repackaging of old policies
with a new veneer of the latest hot solution? (author’s abstract)


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