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Youth justice in the UK: children, young people and crime
Youth justice in the UK: children, young people and crime

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2 From rough justice to restorative justice

This is a photograph of two masked men hitting another man with baseball bats.
Figure 3 Punishment beatings of young people suspected of crimes administered by paramilitaries were one consequence of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Mistrust in conventional criminal justice and the strength of sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland resulted in the police being regarded as a central part of the problem rather than part of the solution for much of the twentieth century. The attempt to move on and restore confidence in the administration of justice, and the institutions of criminal justice, has involved bringing restorative justice from the fringes of the system to the centre. In this next activity you will listen to a short account of how this has happened.

Activity 3 The introduction of restorative justice in Northern Ireland

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes for this activity

Listen to this extract from the BBC Radio 4 programme Thinking Allowed where two academics discuss how and why restorative justice came to be used in Northern Ireland.

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Audio 1
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Complete the following sentence:

Restorative justice in Northern Ireland was introduced an alternative to…

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The move out of the war-like conditions that had harmed so many people in Northern Ireland involved slow and painstaking work. In some communities, justice had become synonymous with violence. There were numerous ‘punishment beatings’ sometimes known colloquially as ‘kneecappings’ because the beatings might involve breaking the legs of the alleged perpetrator. The police and criminal justice agencies were regarded in some places as hostile, or indeed foreign, forces. Restorative justice presented a route out of the entrenched practices of the past and offered alternative possibilities that were taken up and developed by many of those involved in the transition to more peaceful conditions.

Now you have looked at the history and principles of restorative justice, and have considered the context of its introduction to Northern Ireland, it’s time to look at how this is applied to the youth justice system. This is the focus of the next section.