Page 1114 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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that process. After the court hearing and the sentencing, Mr Straw approached the offender and asked what he thought of the process. The young offender, who at no time had the opportunity to speak in court other than to enter his plea, told Mr Straw he had committed the crime and would therefore “do the time”. This was not a new experience for him and he would just accept it as being part of the system.

Mr Straw then attended the RJ conference, observing the proceedings through a two-way mirror. The offence being conferenced was a property crime similar to the offence Mr Straw had observed being prosecuted in the juvenile court. Again, at the completion of the process, Mr Straw had a conversation with the young man and asked him how he would compare the conferencing to the court system. The young man told Mr Straw that for the first time he had the opportunity to hear what effect his actions had had on the victim and the victim’s family. He had not previously realised that his actions had caused such heartache.

While I am unable to advise the Assembly of a long-term outcome for either young man, the conversations had by Mr Straw led me to believe that the young man who went through the conventional court system may well still be fronting up to the court, whereas the young man who was conferenced using the restorative justice model at least had the opportunity of facing those he had wronged and had a realisation that his actions had a very real effect on the victim and their family and, importantly, the victim had an opportunity to have a real voice in the process.

Members may also be aware of the bungled robbery of a pizza shop in the Sydney suburb of Jannali about 10 years ago when a group of four young men attempted an armed robbery, which resulted in the death of the young man who was working at the shop. Terry O’Connell, the former New South Wales police officer I mentioned earlier, gained permission of two of the young men who were convicted of the crime and the family of the young man who died to participate in a restorative justice conference while the young men were serving their sentences. The other two declined to participate.

The process was filmed by the ABC and subsequently became the documentary Facing the Demons. One young man had no family and was accompanied by a Salvation Army officer, the other by his mother. The parents and siblings of the young man who died were also there. As members would imagine, there was a great deal of anger expressed towards the two young men. The conference was charged with high levels of anger and emotion. However, as the conference continued, the victim’s family was able to express clearly the effects the crime had had on them. Whilst a restorative justice conference cannot undo the wrong that has been done, it at least is a way of allowing healing and closure for those who have been affected by the actions of others.

In a postscript, I have since been advised that the father of the young victim who, understandably, in the documentary was hell-bent on doing harm to those responsible for his son’s death, has regularly been visiting one of the young men and upon the young man’s release will employ him in his business.

The Assembly would also be aware that I am encouraged that this practice is being introduced in our education system and that such processes are already in place in a number of ACT schools, one of which is Charnwood primary school in my electorate of Ginninderra. Peter Ross, the principal, is to be commended for his foresight in

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