SIXTY victims of crime in Limerick city have now benefitted from the State’s only restorative justice project, by introducing the victim to the offender, and showing them the errors of their ways.
A study of Ireland’s first and only non-statutory youth restorative justice service has shown that there are significant benefits not only for young people through this programme - rather than sending teenagers to detention centres - but also for the families and the victims of crime.
The report, launched by Le Chéile’s Restorative Justice Project in Limerick this week, identified that following the programme young people displayed a significant increase in their levels of empathy towards victims after engaging with the project, as well as reporting better family relationships and less contact with the Gardaí and court system.
Parents also reported positive outcomes for family life and improved relationships.
Inspector Luke Conlon, Henry Street station, who was at the launch, told the Limerick Leader “that all young people deserve a second chance”.
“It’s important to make sure that the young people we’re dealing with are given a chance. People think when a young person commits an offence they’re put away but that’s far from the case. Everybody deserves a second chance and the Le Chéile project afford people that chance. We’re very glad to be involved in it,” he said.
The project, which has been running in Limerick for five years, may be extended elsewhere, the director of the Probation Service, Vivian Guerin has said. The project in Limerick currently deals with young offenders, generally aged 16-18, and their victims, who are of all ages, and many are initially cautious in getting involved in the programme.
Anne Conroy, chief executive of Le Chéile, said the study shows that restorative justice should be a preferred option for young people who offend. “We’ve now have the evidence that it repairs the harm done to the victim, the community and the family. The future is bright for restorative justice in Ireland and Le Chéile is proud to be a lead agency in demonstrating and practicing Restorative Justice in the youth sector.” The project works with young people through the Probation Service, using a range of restorative justice models including face-to-face meetings, and victim empathy programmes.