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Accountability in Restorative Justice

Declan Roche 
Oxford University Press (February 2003)

In reviving the idea of an informal alternative, the Restorative Justice Movement tries to break out of the predominantly punitive thinking of modern criminal justice. Its proponents claim that its guiding ideals - personalism, participation, reparation and reintegration - deliver a fairer, more effective and more humane justice than does the court system. However, a simplistic tendency to extol the virtues of restorative justice and denigrate all conventional formal approaches may well have blinded enthusiasts to both the dangers inherent in unchecked participant power and to the virtues of protection which state institutions can provide: institutional safeguards help narrow the gap between the ideal and the real.

Examining the experiences of 25 programmes in six countries, this book identifies a number of hitherto neglected, overlapping, incomplete kinds of informal accountability built into deliberations between victims and offenders and their supporters. Such deliberative accountability can provide a rigorous check in regulating decision-making, holding state agencies accountable and monitoring completion of agreements. The book also considers the role played by formal kinds of accountability, such as external review. It suggests an alternative approach, in which judges become more involved in ensuring the effectiveness of conferences than with enforcing traditional sentencing principals.

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