Page 1341 - Week 04 - Thursday, 10 April 2008
community needs to know that the paramount objective of this approach to youth justice is the protection of our young. The paramount objective is that schools or other instruments of government dealing with youth affairs ensure the safety and protection of our young.
Restorative justice principles do not seek to replace the word of law. Restorative justice does not seek to replace the way the education department deals with youth conflict matters. It is a powerful tool which supplements those time-honoured practices. It was very, very important that the report give assurance to parents that while these very interesting approaches that we have seen with restorative justice principles are certainly bearing some fruit, particularly in dealing with a number of cases that might not otherwise have been resolved—there is no question about that; it deals well with some very interesting hard cases that may not otherwise have been addressed—parents can have confidence that at the end of the day, whatever systems are put in place, the safety of their children is paramount.
Magistrate Dingwall illustrated that very point to us when we questioned him about the Chisholm high school matter. He made a very interesting point. Magistrate Dingwall thought that one of the major values in restorative justice practices was the opportunity to give victims some empowerment in coming to grips with what has happened to them. He said that even if a restorative practice exercise does not bring what we want it to bring to resolving the perpetrator’s problems, if it at least allows the victims to engage in a cathartic experience and feel that they have had their say, that they have looked the perpetrator in the eye and been able to say, “This is the damage that you have done to me and my family,” then at least that process is valuable.
Magistrate Dingwall was at great pains to point out that not all perpetrators are going to be assisted in coming to grips with what they have done wrong and perhaps be remorseful and then perhaps start looking seriously at rebuilding their lives. He made the point that a lot of perpetrators come from very dysfunctional families or themselves have mental illness concerns. Restorative practices cannot always work. He made the point that it is therefore very important that all the gaps in the system—the courts, the law, as we know it—are plugged.
He also pointed out that in the Chisholm high school case the victim felt that she had not received justice when she was asked to participate in the restorative practices. It is interesting to raise that here because that is a case that has unfortunately received wide publicity in the community and been spoken of in this place. Magistrate Dingwall pointed out that the victim has not felt that the loops have been tied on that particular matter. A number of us who met the victim—by coincidence, by the way—can see that she is still a shaken young lady.
So justice is very important. Restorative practices, restorative justice principles, can have a very important role to play in the exercising of justice. It is clearly in some ways a very constructive and positive approach to how you might see justice being exercised. I think the report has covered all those areas. I commend the report to the house.