“Victims of crime or those who have experienced wrong–doing can suffer greatly and they deserve to have their need for healing and re-empowerment met. Likewise in conflict situations people and their relationships can suffer. Restorative Practice Mediation offers a real opportunity to address harm caused, repair damaged relationships and build healthy engagement”.
Vera Hogan, MII RP Mediation Sector Rep
Restorative Practice Mediation applies to a wide variety and complexity of situations from neighbourhood issues to the Criminal Justice System. A primary focus of Restorative Practices Mediation is dealing with the aftermath of wrongdoing and victimisation by exploring the causes of the wrongdoing and the impact on victims. Restorative Practices Mediation is also used to engage in community, organisational and family situatiuons in order to build engagement to minimise conflict.
An elderly couple Mary and John had lived in the same quiet community since they were married 47 years ago but had recently experienced some anti-social behaviour- graffiti on their home, some with bad language and vulgar images. A 14 year old youth was responsible –a local boy, Andy who lived with his father and stepmother.Andy attended the mediation session with his father. John attended, supported by the Chairperson of Neighbourhood Watch. Andy explained how he was excluded by the gang in his class. He was angry and felt that acting tough would help his image and make him more acceptable to the gang who used to witness his graffiti activities from a distance.John explained how Mary was too nervous to come to the mediation; she recently had a serious illness diagnosis and life was difficult enough for her; Andy’s behaviour was the last straw and she felt threatened in her own home. During the mediated dialogue, Andy started shouting and then crying. It transpired that the gang at school taunted him especially about his mother whom he still missed dreadfully.The Parties ultimately agreed that Andy, with some of the local boys would help the neighbours clean up the graffiti. Andy asked if he could meet with Mary to tell her that he didn’t mean to frighten her. It was also agreed that the Mediator and the Chairperson of Neighbourhood Watch would meet with the school Principal to encourage use of a restorative framework within the school.
“Looking back on it now I probably knew there was a problem but I didn’t know where to turn. The Mediator really connected with my young lad and never once judged him. It was like she understood the experiences of everyone in the room. If he hadn’t got help then he would probably have ended up in jail’.
Restorative Practice Mediation is used not just in criminal cases where it is called Restorative Justice, but much more widely including neighbourhood, community and family conflicts, social care settings, youth work, schools and workplaces. As well as dealing with the aftermath of offending it is about resolving conflict, repairing damaged relationships and building capacity for constructive dialogue within the family, communities and organisations in order to minimise conflict.
No. Mediation is fully voluntary and nobody can be pressurised into taking part. There is usually a preparatory phase where the Mediator meets the parties separately, explains to them what is involved, how the process works, listens to their interpretations of what happened and prepares them for participation in the mediation. The parties are asked to give their consent at this stage to continue with the mediation process and if both parties agree and the Mediator is satisfied that a safe meeting can be held it will go ahead. Note: Restorative Justice (which is a sub-set of Restorative Practices) applies to the Criminal Justice system and operates from its own legislative base.
The Mediator is responsible for creating a safe space for participants to facilitate constructive and respectful communication. When people have experienced harm or are discussing relationship difficulties it is very important that they have the opportunity to say what effect it has on them. Getting beyond that point however and dealing with what are entirely normal emotions such as hurt, loss, fear or anger can be difficult but it can also be very empowering and enable people ‘change the memory card’ to focus on the future. The Mediator is specially trained to deal with a broad range of traumas, relationships and emotions and is skilled in facilitating people move beyond the conflict or the harm. But always let the Mediator know if you feel it is getting too much for you. There are a lot of things that can help including a short break, a talk with the Mediator in a private, confidential session – the Mediator is there to listen and make sure you are comfortable with the process.
The case outlined above took about six hours on the day with about 1 hour advance preparatory work with each of the parties. Ultimately it depends on the nature and complexity of the issues. The Mediator is there to address the issues which the Parties identified together and to ensure that the mediation process facilitates resolution (achieved in the majority of cases) in an effective and timely manner.
There is a ready availability of independent Mediators trained and experienced in Restorative Practice Mediation. You can talk with a Mediator who will explain the variety of approaches and discuss with you the option(s) that can best answer your needs and concerns. There is also a variety of Restorative Practice mediation schemes which are free at the point of delivery - these include within the Justice system and some community programmes.
The MII accredits mediation training courses which meet set training standards.
The purpose of CPD is to ensure that Mediators keep their knowledge and skills up to date for the benefit of users of their service and for their own personal and professional development.