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8 December 2005 Edition

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CRJ's "cautious welcome" to British proposals

Draft guidelines drawn up by the British Government for Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) schemes operating in the Six Counties have been "cautiously welcomed" by CRJ Ireland. Spokesperson Noel McCartney said his organisation wanted to clarify aspects of the draft proposals but he welcomed the guidelines as "a basis for moving forward".

McCartney described the draft proposals as "a serious effort to provide a framework for co-operative relations between the criminal justice system and those practising restorative justice in the community."

Restorative justice seeks to resolve neighbourhood disputes through mediation and discussion. It has recently become the focus of media attention that has sought to undermine the organisation because it chooses not to work with the PSNI.

McCartney said it was an objective fact that at the present time a large majority of people in areas in which the CRJ work are opposed to active engagement with the PSNI. If the CRJ ignored this fact the credibility of the organisation would collapse.

"Once all parties are participating in policing structures, we are prepared to work hard to play our part in overcoming any remaining resistance to full and open partnership between the community and policing service," said the CRJ spokesperson.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said that republicans did not regard community restorative justice as an alternative to a policing service. "The Justice Oversight Commissioner recently praised the CRJ schemes operating here and reported that 80% of their work relates to community and neighbourhood disputes which are nothing to do with the formal justice system," said Kelly.

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