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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 February 2016) . . Page.. 133 ..


You need to have a balance. The scales of justice, Madam Assistant Speaker, must be in balance, and they must be balanced between the rights of the individual and the desire to make sure that we have rehabilitation, and making sure that those charged with the grave responsibility for implementing our justice system, be they the courts or the police, have the appropriate powers, equipment and protections so that they can do their job.

Yes, we are supportive of restorative justice. But to have that debate in isolation from the broader justice system, while there are so many failures, from the ministry all the way down, is naive and it does not show the whole picture. Essentially, it will not achieve the vision that we would all have, which we would all share in this place, which is for a safer community.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Corrections, Minister for Education, Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs and Minister for Road Safety) (11.57): I thank Ms Porter for bringing this motion forward today and for the opportunity to discuss this matter in the Assembly. As she and other members have noted, the history of innovative approaches to criminal justice in the ACT is a long and proud one.

Successive ACT governments over time, and the Greens, Liberal and Labor parties alike, have shown, up until now, a unique resistance to punitive law and order ideology for the most part, which has allowed our community to explore new approaches and build on existing research bases. I have been concerned to see signs of this evidence-based response to complex issues being somewhat eroded and threatened by the current Canberra Liberals, but reassured by the broader community response to simplistic announcements.

The motion before us refers in the first point to this long history and to the re-integrative shaming experiments project which provided its final evaluation report in 2011. While acknowledging that the use of the word “shaming” was quite controversial at the time, and is not language we would use now, the intent of the experiments was far deeper and more considered than simply shaming offenders. The final report showed that both offenders and victims found conferences to be fairer than the court, and that there were clear benefits to victims that were greater in conferences than in court.

But as well as these findings, and essential to the continued expansion of similar programs into the future, were the findings related to recidivism. A distinguished professor and distinguished Canberran, John Braithwaite, was involved in the experiments and evaluations, and I acknowledge his ongoing contribution to these practices both here in Canberra and now also around the world. On recidivism, he said:

The substantive conclusion of RISE is that restorative justice can work, and can even reduce crime by violent offenders. But there is no guarantee that it will work for all offence types. Caution and more research are needed before rapid expansion of any new approach to treating crime. Less caution is needed, however, in testing restorative justice on more serious types of violent offences. The findings in this report provide firm ground for repeating the violence experiment in many other venues and with more refined types of violent offences, including robbery, assault, and grievous bodily harm.


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