Page 1116 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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In juvenile violence crime, the rate for conventional justice was 3.4 more arrests; and 40.3 fewer arrests for restorative justice per 100 offenders. In this case restorative justice reduces re-offending in juvenile violent crime. In adult cases, conventional justice recorded 125.2 fewer arrests while restorative justice recorded 94.7 fewer arrests per 100—another example of conventional justice being more effective in reducing re-offending. In adult property crime, the rates were 84.4 fewer per 100 arrests for conventional justice and 70.1 fewer for restorative justice.

There are some startling differences between male and female juveniles, with females recording a lower arrest rate, 58.9 fewer arrests per 100 arrests; males recording an incredible 144 more per 100, meaning, not only do they re-offend; they re-offend several times over. Dr Sherman also makes a sobering conclusion in relation to Aboriginal participation in restorative justice:

Restorative justice was found to be not safe and not effective.

That conclusion must be immediately taken into account by the government who should immediately reassess their Aboriginal restorative justice processes. A final word from Dr Sherman, on the Canberra experience, is that there has been a 413 per cent increase in property crime arrests after the introduction of restorative justice in the ACT.

Mr Speaker, these sobering statistics need to be compared against the very strong findings of Sherman, Maxwell and others that restorative justice is a very effective process for victims of crime. This is not in dispute. If the question before us were: “Does restorative justice produce better outcomes for victims?” the answer would be a resounding yes. If the question were: “Does restorative justice reduce re-offending and reduce crime?” the answer would be a resounding no. There is a great danger in bounding headlong down the restorative justice path without the evidence to back it up.

Other speakers at the conference were concerned that the ACT restorative justice system is run by the police rather than social workers or community corrections officers. They were also concerned that the police relied on scripts for conferencing and that there were not enough post-conference support services available. The point here is: should we be expanding restorative justice when the current system is not, according to the experts, being run in an optimum manner?

Mr Speaker, it needs to be made clear that the opposition is supportive of restorative justice in principle, but this support is dependent on evidence, and the evidence suggests that there are significant problems with restorative justice. There are problems with male juveniles, there are problems with Aboriginal offenders, and the evidence supporting the expansion to adult offenders is just not there.

What I am calling for, from the likes of Ms Porter and others, is a critical and empirical approach to restorative justice rather than a blind reliance on the feel-good factor. There is data available, there is significant research, such as that by Mr Parker of the Department of Justice and Community Safety. There needs to be debate but it needs to be informed debate, not just feel-good statements.

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