RESTORATIVE JUSTICE: BRINGING JUSTICE FOR CRIME VICTIMS?
Keywords:crime victims, restorative justice, therapeutic jurisprudence
To date, South Africa’s criminal justice system has been about crime and the punishment of offenders, and not about redress for crime victims. This can be ascribed to the nature of a criminal system that perceives crime to be a matter between the State and the accused, with the victim playing the marginal role of a witness. The retributive nature of our criminal justice has played a crucial role in the marginalization of the very person who was victimized, namely the crime victim. A number of countries have recently developed practices of restorative justice and therapeutic jurisprudence that have introduced an all-inclusive justice system that allows for participation by offenders, crime victims, their family members, the community and the State. Sadly, our country has been but tentative in its acceptance of restorative justice processes, with only a few thousands of individuals having benefitted from it since its inception. Although restorative justice is acclaimed as a system that allows for meaningful participation of victims in criminal processes, the author argues that the system favours mostly offenders, young offenders in particular, and is applied in respect of minor offences. For serious crimes, courts have been reluctant to embrace restorative justice processes, preferring to revert to the retributive system which is believed to have failed in reducing the crime rate in any country. In this article the author develops the idea that a lukewarm reception of restorative processes is detrimental to the administration of justice. It defeats the very purpose of victim involvement in the criminal justice system, and deprives the crime victim of the very benefits restorative justice is acclaimed for, namely healing and satisfaction.
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