May I wish you all a very good afternoon, and thank you for attending at very short notice, this ceremony to formally present you with certificates of completion of 40 hours of training in Restorative Justice and Victim Offender Mediation, offered by the University of the West Indies, working in conjunction with the Judiciary of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Judiciary of Turks and Caicos Islands is proud to be pioneering the formal integration of Restorative Justice Practice into our criminal justice system, and is even more proud of your achievement as participants in training that has been described as intensive and grueling.
It is our expectation, that the restorative justice process which is victim-focused will achieve what has eluded the criminal justice system for a long time, which is, that victims and other persons impacted by crime, will be given a voice, and a forum where they can air their grievances, and offenders will be given an opportunity to acknowledge and confront the harm they cause by their criminal acts. The goal is to provide, closure, healing and where possible, reparation, and victim-offender reconciliation.
It is my hope that victims of crime, and communities impacted by criminal conduct will experience these positive effects of restorative justice as you perform your duties as practitioners.
The legal framework under which you will perform your duties was brought into effect yesterday the 1st of June 2022, when the Restorative Justice Rules 2022 came into force. I know that you are acquainted with the said Rules, as they formed part of your training curriculum. You may find the Rules on the Judiciary’s Website at www.judicial.tc.
Now that you have this certification, you will have to apply to the Restorative Justice Committee and be placed on a Roster published in the Gazette, to officially become Restorative Justice Practitioners in these islands. You will find the application form, in the Schedule to the Rules as Form 1.
The day-to-day administration of Restorative Justice shall be done through the Restorative Justice Administrator who will be responsible for scheduling restorative justice sessions, managing the Roster of Restorative Justice Practitioners, creating an opportunity for safe dialogue between the offender, victim and other interested parties, and arranging Restorative Justice sessions.
Both Restorative Justice sessions and Court-Connected Mediations will be administered out of our Mediation Centre, a fit-for-purpose facility, complete with two conference rooms, break out rooms for private consultation and office space for our Restorative Justice Practitioners and Mediators, which will be commissioned on 15 July 2022 in a ceremony to which you are all invited.
The process of commencing a Restorative Justice session is set out in the Rules. The first step is a referral order by a judge or Magistrate, with the consent of the parties. The order may incorporate directions may range from securing an interpreter, to making efforts to counterbalance any discrepancy in the power relationships between the parties. Mental health professionals and family will very often be involved in this process. The final say on whether to proceed with the restorative justice session however, will lie with you, as the Restorative Justice Practitioner, working with the Administrator, to determine the suitability of the restorative justice process even after the court has made the order.
You see therefore that yours is by no means a passive role, for you have an awesome responsibility and have a say, with consultation with the ADR Administrator on whether the parent or guardian should attend a session; or whether a mental health practitioner, a social worker, or any other person whose input or evaluation of the impact of the crime may be relevant to reconciliation should attend.
You, as the Practitioner, will also have the responsibility of assessing the offender to determine if he has any insight into the offence, at all, or its impact.
You will have the power, where such insight is absent, to disqualify the case from the restorative justice process.
I am certain that by now, you appreciate that you bear the onerous responsibility of being a part of the criminal justice machinery, and that your role is expected to bring healing to persons affected by, and communities impacted by crime, as well assist in blunting the sharp effects of criminal conduct, which is the source of anguish to many in these islands, and you will do so, one victim at a time.
Accept my congratulations which I offer with joy and pride in your achievement.
Please complete your application to be placed on Roster as soon as possible, and let us join hands to combat the effect of crime in these islands.
I thank you.
2ND JUNE 2022