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Victim-Offender Mediation in Austria

Pelikan, Christa
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) In Victim-offender mediation in Europe: Making restorative justice work, ed. The European Forum for Victim-Offender Mediation and Restorative Justice, 125-152. With an introduction by Tony Peters. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press.

Pelikan notes that Austria has a reputation as a conservative society with a punitive orientation in criminal justice. Yet through the 1980s and 1990s Austria has become a pioneer and leader in the field of victim-offender mediation. Pelikan details the conditions, innovations, and legislation that effected this transformation. The impetus came from a debate about juvenile justice in Austria, leading to changes in responding to offences through conflict resolution, with resolutions that could include victim-offender mediation, comprehensive compensation and reconciliation, and community service. The changes involved administrative arrangements, legislation, and experimental projects. Eventually, proposals were made to extend these changes to the general criminal justice system, including adult offenders and very serious offenses. This took considerable time and effort. Opposition came, for example, from the conservative sector and from the women’s movement (which, while supporting many aspects of the proposed changes, sought to exclude domestic violence cases from this approach based on victim-offender mediation as against established criminal prosecution). In time, though, legislation was enacted that began a process of moving the Austrian criminal justice system toward restorative alternatives, as seen in victim-offender mediation processes and outcomes. Pelikan details the legal context for mediation and mediators, policy and implementation structures and processes, and mediation programs in Austria. In the latter part of this paper Pelikan presents research statistics on the number of cases handled by mediation, types of offenses, characteristics of offenders, and outcomes.


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