Restorative Justice Conferencing giving a Voice to Victims of Environmental Harm: the Problem of Expertise

Mark Hamilton1,

1 UNSW, Sydney NSW, 2052, mark.hamilton@unsw.edu.au

Practice from New Zealand highlights the potential use of restorative justice conferencing following environmental offending. Such conferencing may fulfil two important functions. Firstly, recognition, a symbolic purpose that acknowledges the fact that both humans and nonhumans can be victim of environmental offending. It is hoped that such symbolism will see the environment valued in its own right and not merely as some resource for human exploitation. Further, it will reinforce the obligation the current generation has to future generations to provide an environment no worse than the environment the current generation inherited. Secondly, exposure, a practical purpose in that victims of environmental offending are given a forum in which to explore their victimhood, ie., tell their story and formulate ways of meeting their needs. Such conferencing necessitates the need for human guardians to act as representatives for those without a voice. White highlights “four problems that have major implications for how environmental courts deal with cases featuring nonhuman environmental subjects” (2016: 143). Those problems being of victimisation, ontology, expertise and temporality. This paper seeks to explore the problem of expertise and does so assuming that environmental courts, such as the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales, are prepared to give a voice to nonhuman environmental victims and human environmental victims without a voice, utilising restorative justice. Such an exploration will consider the following questions – At which stage of environmental prosecution would such voices be heard? What would be the purpose of hearing those voices? Who would give a voice to the voiceless? and what would be the extent of the role of those giving a voice to the voiceless? It is hoped that this exploration will be the springboard for further research rather than being the conclusion of the matter.

Biography:

Mark is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Law and a casual academic at UNSW Australia, teaching in the criminology program in Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He is the current Commissioning Editor of the Local Government Reporter; a role that he has held since June 2012. The Local Government Reporter is a LexisNexis publication dedicated to publishing articles of relevance to local government and its practitioners.

Mark has had considerable exposure to, and experience in, local government, planning and environmental law. He was an operational assistant at the Land and Environment Court of NSW in 2006 and 2007, before becoming Justice Sheahan’s tipstaff at that same court in 2008.

Between 2009 and 2012 Mark worked as a solicitor in a local government and planning practice in a national mid-tier law firm in its Sydney office. In that position Mark was involved in a range of local government, planning, environmental and compulsory acquisition matters.

Mark has a strong interest in local government, planning, environmental, compulsory acquisition and administrative law, and restorative justice.

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