Restorative Justice: Criticism And Challenges

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4 Criticism and Challenges

The first point of criticism against victim participation in restorative justice processes arises from scepticism about an apology to the victim as a way of dealing with criminal matters. The perception sometimes exists as to it simply being a way to get away with the crime.106 Members of the public should thus be educated to understand that restorative justice is more than a mere saying sorry, but in the context of victim offender mediation or family group conferences it rather affords the victim the opportunity to confront the child offender with the real and human cost of his or her criminal actions. Another concern deals with the possible secondary victimisation of the victim in the case where the offender pretends
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The intimate (and often violent) nature of these offences influences the willingness of victims to participate. Victims might further be in the offender’s peer group, attending the same school or even be friends. Lack of insight and the offender’s attitude would make victim-offender mediation undesirable.[94] The younger the child victim, the more unlikely any informal interaction with the offender will be. As highlighted earlier,[95]when sufficient time passes, such an encounter might become a reality, particularly where the parties belong to the same familial structure.[96]Skelton[97] points out that many sexual offences committed by child offenders are not of a violent nature: “Children sometimes have wrong perceptions about sex and act inappropriately, and in those situations restorative justice can work.”

Inadequately trained facilitators/probation officers may cause victim offender mediation or a family-group conference to fail. Poor facilitation may thus lead to parties abusing each other. In addition, grossly disproportionate conditions may be set and even recommended to the court.[98][99] Davies et al116 highlights another valid concern, namely that role-players working with the child offender[100] may find it difficult to accept their role in relation to the victim as
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Core restorative justice procedures, such as family group conferences and victim offender mediation, are further described in a way to provide detailed guidance for those officials involved. The extent to which these mechanisms may be used depends on role-players’ attitudes and skills, and victims’ willingness and preparation to participate. The promise of compensation, however, seems to be less secure within the South African context. Nevertheless, the provisions in the CJA are a step in the right direction of recognising crime victims’ dignity and their potential role in the justice

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