Ground-breaking use of Restorative Justice for victims of serious crime

5 Sep 2017

 

Innovative use of Restorative Justice in Canada, the US, England and The Netherlands is improving the lives of victims of serious violence committed by people with a mental illness.

Churchill Fellow Michael Power has just returned from his Fellowship visiting these countries where he was able to meet and spend time with mental health services who have adapted restorative justice to help victims of violence, their families, and perpetrators with a serious mental illness. 
 
Michael Power will share his Fellowship findings with delegates at the National Victims of Crime Conference in Brisbane on 6 September 2017.  

Traditionally Australia has not offered restorative justice in cases where violence is committed by a person with a serious mental illness. This is because of concerns about whether the patient could manage the process and whether they should participate if they have been found of unsound mind by a Court,” Mr Power said this week, “yet what we know is that mental health patients often improve their mental health and can have a sense of shame and guilt about committing the violence.”  

Michael Power is the Director of Queensland Health’s Victim Support Service which is a state-wide specialist service helping victims of serious violence.

Restorative Justice has been used widely in Australia in youth justice, schools and more recently in the adult criminal justice system and involves the use of trained staff facilitating communication between victims and perpetrators through a face to face meeting, via a third party, or by letter.

“Victims benefit from being able to talk about the impact of the violence where the perpetrator has agreed to take responsibility for the harm caused.  Importantly victims can ask questions they may not have been able to ask in the justice system.”

Victims can benefit from understanding the impact of mental illness on the person who committed the violence. Mental health patients benefit from understanding the impact of their actions which in the long term will help reduce the risk of carrying out any further violence in the community. 

“Research indicates that crimes of this nature are often committed against family members and mental health staff and efforts to re-establish relationships are haphazard, with the opportunity to repair and rebuild relationships lost,” Michael said.

Restorative Justice is proving to be an effective way of rebuilding relationships between family members after incidences of serious violence.  It is also showing great success in rebuilding the care relationship between mental health staff who have been harmed and the patient.

“What we need to do now is adapt these innovations for our mental health systems in Australia,” Michael adds.

“Through his Fellowship, Michael is providing leadership on a topic in which he has a lot of experience and his objectives are clearly aimed at establishing a model which is sensitive and effective,” said CEO of the Churchill Trust Adam Davey.

“Michael’s Fellowship has broad capacity to benefit communities across Queensland, and on behalf of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust we wish him all the best with implementing his recommendations.”

Michael’s Fellowship Report will be available for download from our website from November, visit www.churchilltrust.com.au/fellows/

See where a Churchill Fellowship can take you…apply from 1 February 2018.


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