Associate Professor John L Anderson1, Dr Nicola M Ross2, Ms Mary Porter AM3
1 Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle, Callaghan NSW 2308. John.Anderson@newcastle.edu.au
2 Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle, Callaghan NSW 2308. Nicola.Ross@newcastle.edu.au
3 Former MLA, ACT Legislative Assembly and President, NED Inc.
What future uses are there for the principles of restorative justice in our court system? Reflecting on this question, this paper evaluates the implementation of an alternative approach to traditional criminal justice processing through the creation of a restorative city in New South Wales. This takes account of the models and experiences in Oakland, California, US, Hull, UK, Whanganui, NZ and Canberra, ACT. There are no easy answers to complex challenges and restorative practices should not be viewed in this light; indeed it is no “magic bullet”. However the ACT example can demonstrate the value of bringing the community with you in the introduction of this practice.
Courts do not easily surrender their control and traditions to restorative justice philosophy but it is contended that there is scope for incremental implementation of this philosophy through specialist Children’s and Local Courts established in Newcastle, NSW with the ultimate aim of implementation in all mainstream courts in the state. There have been encouraging findings that restorative justice offers a viable alternative or adjunct to traditional criminal justice processes in terms of victim participation, restitution and reduced recidivism. At the same time there will be limited impact unless there is a major shift in the attitudes and practices of prosecutors and judicial officers in mainstream courts. The theoretical and practical challenges involved extend to appropriate training and education of the key players in the criminal justice system and this includes opening an important dialogue with social work and other social science practitioners to ensure training and education work towards support for restorative rather than punitive practices. Education of criminal justice practitioners on the potential use of restorative justice programs as an alternative to traditional sentencing options, including imprisonment, can be progressed through a restorative city program.
John Anderson is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Newcastle. The overarching concept of his research scholarship is related to questions of unfairness and inequity in the criminal justice system, particularly the sentencing of offenders, sentencing options and treating like cases alike. He has published various books, book chapters, journal articles and conference papers with a focus on evidence, criminal law and sentencing. John is a highly awarded teacher who currently teaches various courses in the law programs, including Criminal Law and Procedure, Advanced Criminal Law and Evidence.