14 March 2006

Restorative Justice boost

Daily Ireland

New Policing Board member reveals he has used the services of Community Restorative Justice at least 150 times in the last four years - “I have been a supporter of restorative justice from it started, from the sheer experience of having a family and children and a substantial number of grandchildren. The policing service in many ways cannot be equipped to deal with many aspects of community problems, whether that be in New York or Paris or Derry.” — Brendan Duddy

by Jarlath Kearney
14/03/2006

A new member of the North’s Policing Board yesterday revealed that he had used the services of Community Restorative Justice at least 150 times in the last four years.
Derry businessman Brendan Duddy, who owns several nightclubs and bars in the city, gave his full backing to Community Restorative Justice during an interview with Daily Ireland.
His comments coincided with a top-level meeting in Belfast last night between representatives of Community Restorative Justice and the SDLP.
Mr Duddy was yesterday nominated for appointment to the Policing Board, which will be reconstituted in April.
At the height of the conflict, Mr Duddy acted as a link in secret talks between the republican leadership and the British government, alongside outgoing Policing Board vice-chairman Denis Bradley.
The Northern Ireland Office is currently completing a consultation on the statutory funding of restorative justice schemes across the North.
Various restorative justice programmes are in operation but Community Restorative Justice is the main scheme in nationalist areas.
The SDLP has launched scathing and sustained attacks on the organisation because it does not embrace the PSNI.
A recent SDLP document about Community Restorative Justice sparked controversy because it described some members as having “IRA criminal records”.
The republican ex-prisoners’ network Coiste na nIarchimí criticised the “criminal” remark, which was made on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the start of the 1981 hunger strike.
Mr Duddy yesterday told Daily Ireland that critics of Community Restorative Justice “just do not have the experience” of how the project worked.
“I have been a supporter of restorative justice from it started, from the sheer experience of having a family and children and a substantial number of grandchildren,” he said.
“The policing service in many ways cannot be equipped to deal with many aspects of community problems, whether that be in New York or Paris or Derry.
“Restorative justice has not [been] and is not a political situation in terms of the work they do. I have used restorative justice in excess of 150 times in the last four years. As a result of that, you get to know what is more appropriately handled by the Police Service of Northern Ireland or by Community Restorative Justice, and it appears to me that people who are extremely critical of restorative justice do not have that experience.”
Mr Duddy described restorative justice as “a very complex issue”. He said he could understand “how very genuine nationalists have fears and difficulties, thinking that restorative justice is simply another arm of the republican movement or, more bluntly, the IRA”.
“What is needed is an education process — that people have to experience for themselves that is not the case,” he said.
Mr Duddy insisted that the organisation had “never ever even come close to crossing that line”, even though some Community Restorative Justice members had served jail terms during the conflict.
He said that people who criticise CRJ have “an obligation” to experience for themselves the work of the organisation.
“I work with both the PSNI and CRJ all the time, and I have never ever been asked by restorative justice people in Derry not to do that. It’s never even been hinted.
“In a modern complex world, we need someone in between the communities to say: ‘Look here, your son’s out of line. Are you prepared to try and sort this out?’ That’s the role of CRJ.
“It’s not about dealing with the sexual abuse of children or domestic violence or people joyriding without tax or insurance.
“I am a nationalist. I’m a pacifist. I’m a totally commited supporter of the peace process. I’m delighted that the war is over and has been recognised as such.
“With that background, I will certainly be speaking, as I believe, the truth in terms of my dealings and experience with restorative justice.
“I am saying quite clearly that it has been my absolute experience that CRJ has an important role to play,” he said.

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