Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fortieth Report


10. NATIONAL CONTACT POINTS FOR RESTORATIVE JUSTICE


23633
10575/02

Draft Council Decision setting up a European network of national contact points for restorative justice.


Legal base:Article 34(2)(c) EU;
Document originated:13 June 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 10 July 2002
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 2 August 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


Background

  10.1  This proposal is one of a number of recent measures designed to promote judicial co-operation between Member States in criminal matters.

The document

  10.2  Article 1 provides for the establishment of a European network of a national contact points for restorative justice.

  10.3  Article 2 defines the concept of 'restorative justice' as follows:

    "Restorative justice denotes a broad approach in which material and immaterial reparation of the disturbed relationship between the victim, the community and the offender constitutes a general, guiding principle in the criminal justice process. Restorative justice covers a body of ideas that is relevant to various forms of sanctioning and conflict handling in the successive stages of or in connection with the criminal justice process. Although thus far restorative justice has mainly found expression in different forms of mediation between victims and offenders (victim - offender mediation), other methods are increasingly being applied, like for example family group conferencing. Governments, police, criminal justice agencies, specialised authorities, victim aid and support services, offender aid services, researchers and the public are all implied in this process."

  10.4  Article 3 states the objective of the network as contributing "to developing, supporting and promoting the various aspects of restorative justice within the Member States as well as at the Union level", in particular the provision of "legislative support and support to criminal justice authorities."

  10.5  To achieve that objective Article 4 sets out specific tasks for the network. First, the network is to act as an "information point" for the collection, analysis and evaluation of information on existing restorative justice practices in Member States. Secondly, the network is to develop mechanisms for the distribution of that information to governments from regional to international level as well as to other groups and institutions with a legitimate interest in restorative justice. Thirdly, it is to facilitate the mutual exchange of information between such authorities, institutions and groups. Fourthly, it is to promote research on the topic of restorative justice. Fifthly, it is to develop areas for training and evaluation in the field of restorative justice.

  10.6  Article 5 states that in pursuing the above tasks the network shall pay particular attention to "the co-operation and the stimulation of exchange with non-governmental organisations working in the field of restorative justice." To this end it is provided that the network may decide to call upon the know-how and experience of non-governmental organisations working in the field of restorative justice and that it may "even decide to co-operate in a more structural way."

  10.7  Articles 6 to 10 deal with the composition and procedural rules for the network. Article 6 provides that the network shall consist of contact points. Each Member State may designate up to three contact points while the European Commission and accession countries may also designate one contact point each. The remaining provisions concern rules of procedure, regular reports by the network and evaluation.

The Government's view

  10.8  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 21 August 2002 the Minister (Mr. Bob Ainsworth) expresses the Government's general support for the proposed measure as a means of facilitating the exchange of information and research on restorative justice. The Minister states that restorative justice is already used within the youth justice system in England and Wales, and that the Government is considering extending the use of restorative justice across all age groups and to all stages of the criminal process. The Minister emphasises that comparative information and research on restorative justice could also assist the development of the Government's strategy in this regard.

  10.9  However, the Minister expresses the Government's concern at the extent of the proposals for the creation and functioning of the Network. In particular, he states, the Government has "doubts as to whether it is necessary to create a new body for the purpose of facilitating co-operation in this area, particularly since this proposal would also entail the creation of a Secretariat, annual programme and financial plan. Such action was not envisaged at the Tampere European Council, which established the current JHA work programme, and we do not see that it is justified at present. We take the view that the purpose of the Network can be achieved, at least initially, simply through the nomination of expert contact points. Once established, an assessment can be made of whether to further develop the Network in the manner proposed in the Council Decision. We intend to raise these concerns during the course of negotiations".

  10.10  The Minister states that the costs of the proposed measure are not clear, although they will include the cost of three designated contact individuals to liaise with the Network and to spend time exchanging information and organising and attending seminars.

  10.11  Finally, the Minister states that before reaching any conclusion the Government will consult appropriate NGOs.

Conclusion

  10.12  We share the Government's concerns about the scope of this proposal, as well as its financial implications. In particular we ask the Minister whether the Government is prepared to oppose the proposed measure so long as it envisages the creation of a new body with its own secretariat, and, if not, whether the Government will press for clarification of the financial implications of the proposal.

  10.13  We are concerned moreover about the vagueness of the proposal and in particular of the proposed definition of 'restorative justice' in Article 2. We ask the Minister to explain what precisely is meant by "a broad approach in which material and immaterial reparation of the disturbed relationship between the victim, the community and the offender constitutes a general, guiding principle in the criminal justice process."

  10.14  We shall hold the document under scrutiny until we have the Minister's reply.




 
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Prepared 20 November 2002