Is Mediation an option instead of going to court?

Formerly known as Justice Medication, adult restorative justice conferencing is a facilitated meeting between an offender and the victim of their crime that can allow matters to be diverted from the court and reach a solution that is more favourable to all parties involved.

What is Adult Restorative Justice Conferencing?

Adult restorative justice conferencing allows adults who have been charged with an offence, the opportunity to recognise and restore the harm they have caused to the victim, family relationships and the community as a whole, accept responsibility for their actions and take steps to repair the harm or damage they have caused.

The purpose of the conference is to discuss what happened, the effects of the offence on the victim and to repair harm caused to the victim. This process also allows an opportunity for the victim to share their story, ask questions of the offender and to hold them accountable for their actions and the harm they have caused.

An offender is expected to accept responsibility for their behaviour and acknowledge the impact on the victim so this is not an option if you intent to plead not guilty to the charges.

How does Restorative Justice Conferencing Work?

The conference typically occurs before a court hearing or sentence, but it can occur at any stage throughout the criminal justice process.

All parties must be participating in the process voluntarily. A matter can be referred by the Court, police, prosecutor, or corrective services.  A victim or defence lawyer can also suggest it as an option and request the matter be referred.

Everyone must be participating in the process voluntarily.

Restorative justice conferencing is usually used for offences that are dealt with in the Magistrates Court. These offences include, but are not limited to, stealing, assault and wilful damage. In some circumstances, it can also be used for more serious offences such as grievous bodily harm.

Before the restorative justice conference occurs, all parties will arrange to meet so the convenor can determine whether the matter is suitable for this process. The convenor will discuss the process of mediation, who can be present, what parties might want to share and what may occur.

The Conference

Parties who attend the mediation conference are:

  • Convenor who is an accredited mediator
  • Offender
  • Victim
  • Parties respective support people

The convenor will encourage a discussion between the parties about what has happened and how it has affected them to then help the parties reach an outcome. The convenor will remain impartial and assist the parties reach an outcome that meets the needs of the victim, is realistic and helps repaid harm caused by the offender. Examples of this could be the offender apologising, returning property they stole, providing assurance that they will not reoffend and paying for medical expenses incurred by the victim.

The parties will then sign the agreement and a copy will be sent to the referrer, who in Queensland is generally the Prosecutor.

The referrer will then decide the most appropriate way to proceed with the charge in court, that is whether they formally offer no evidence or whether they continue with the proceedings. If the court proceedings continue, they will take into account the offender’s participation in the restorative justice conference at sentence.

This post contains general advice only and is not intended as legal advice.