Centre for Penal Theory and Penal Ethics - Restorative

Restorative Justice

Scales of Justice

The Centre's second major completed project concerns Restorative Justice (RJ). The RJ movement has recently become influential, especially in several Commonwealth nations and, to a lesser extent, the U.S. and Great Britain. Essentially, restorative justice is a way of dealing with criminal offences by involving the offender, the victim, and possible community representatives in an informal negotiating process which results in the offender's undertaking some 'reparative' task.

RJ's aims have often been ambitiously described - that the victim be 'restored', the 'conflict' between offender and victim healed, the community be reassured, etc. However, the precise meaning of these varying aims, as well as their interrelationship, has remained unclear. Unresolved, too, has been the question of what dispositional criteria will advance those aims, and of what limits (including limits of proportionality) should apply to restorative dispositions. The Centre's RJ project sought to clarify some of these issues, with a particular emphasis on what normative limits there should be on 'restorative' processes and dispositions.

To that end, a group of criminologists, philosophers, and legal theorists met in a colloquium at Cambridge in October 2000. Unlike many RJ conferences, in which participants have tended solely to be advocates of the approach, this meeting reflected both supportive and critical perspectives. A second colloquium, to review papers prepared for the project, took place in Toronto in April 2001. Issues addressed included specifying RJ's aims more clearly; examining what limiting principles should apply to restorative dispositions; examining what social factors have made RJ become influential; evaluating critically the impact of restorative programmes; and examining how RJ might relate to other, more traditional, penal strategies. Authors of papers include Andrew Ashworth, John Braithwaite, Anthony Bottoms, Kathleen Daly, Anthony Duff, Barbara Hudson, Julian Roberts, Paul Roberts, Joanna Shapland, Clifford Shearing, Andrew von Hirsch, Lode Walgrave, and Richard Young. This analysis of Restorative Justice has now appeared as the second volume in the Centre's series of books, published by Hart Publishing in Oxford., under the title, A. von Hirsch, J. V. Roberts, A. E. Bottoms et al. (eds), Restorative Justice and Criminal Justice: Competing or Reconcilable Paradigms? (2003).