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Let Justice be restored - Martin Wright tells Putney Rotary Club

The establishment of a community court which starts in Roehampton this month (September) received a warm welcome from penal reformer Martin Wright, speaking to Putney Rotary Club last Monday, 15 September. His subject was restorative justice, which advocates such courts. He said he hoped that the Roehampton court would include victim-offender mediation.

Martin described restorative justice as a different philosophy. It emphasises offenders making up for an offence in a constructive way rather than being punished. This approach encourages offenders to accept responsibility and regret what they have done to others. He mentioned a new book, The Damage Done, in which the author, Peter Woolf, describes his two decades of being in and out of prison. At a victim-offender mediation conference, he met a doctor from whom he had stolen a laptop. Seeing the doctor in tears over the loss of his laptop, containing years of research, made such an impact on Peter Woolf that he now tells his cautionary tale to children and at conferences.

Martin pointed out: “Quite young children can learn how to be mediators, even in primary schools, because the principles are very simple. The mediators ask each side what happened, how did it made them feel and what to do to make things better. If more people could approach their disputes in this spirit we would all be better off.”

Less serious cases can be diverted out of the system to a restorative process. For more serious ones, courts can order compensation, in money or reparation, through community service. To make it restorative, a mediation conference can be held before sentencing, as in the New Zealand Juvenile system, based on Maori culture. The sentence can be based on whatever the mediation conference
agrees. Judges have discretion to change this, but usually endorse what the conference has worked out. Martin described a mediation service in the Isle of Sheppey’s three prisons in Kent, where, after careful preparation, there is mediation between the prisoners and the families of murder victims.

Restorative justice started in Canada in the mid-70s. It is now an international movement. The European Forum for Restorative Justice holds a conference every two years and helps spread restorative practices throughout Europe. The UN is interested and has produced a handbook on restorative justice. In one rape crisis centre in Denmark, some of the rape victims said: “We would like to meet those who did this”. Of course this should only happen if they want it, but if they do, and the offender is willing, they have the right to make it possible.

Martin Wright rounded off his talk by reminding his audience: “Over the last 20 to 30 years we have got used to living in harmony with the planet. Now it is time to learn to live in harmony with each other.”

14 Sep 2008

Notes to Editors

Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Members carry out this work in their community and/or overseas by giving their time and their expertise.

A Rotary Club is open to men and women who are business, professional or community leaders who want to use their experience for the benefit of others. Paul Harris formed the world's first service club in Chicago on 23rd February 1905. The name Rotary is derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.


For further information about this news release, please contact Jane Hammond [Email]

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