Domestic violence and restorative justice: Does it work?


It is safe to say that restorative justice has proved itself in many areas of crime and violence. It is a worldwide movement, which like all justice theories and practices has its good and bad days. Since its return in the 1970s, we have seen it implemented in various contexts and at different stages of the criminal process. Of course, this is not to suggest that restorative justice is a panacea or that things can not go wrong. I have had the pleasure of witnessing some of the most powerful restorative justice moments, but also some of the darkest justice paths.

With this in mind, I have always been sceptical, but also interested, in the use of restorative justice with complex cases. By definition, restorative justice happens behind closed doors, and thus gaining the trust of practitioners and parties in conflict to allow you to observe is a must. It is a gift that should not be assumed and a task that demands time and genuine effort. I have been fortunate to access some complex cases some of which included ongoing domestic violence. I am also proud to have published (via RJ4All Publications) the first practitioners-led volume "25 restorative justice cases".

I have read many definitions of domestic violence. I have now come to conclude that domestic violence and violence against women are a society issue and an equality problem that typifies our relationship with the criminal justice system whereby traditional justice seeks to punish the offender on behalf of the state (the powerful) in disregard to the needs of the victim (the powerless). In this process, the true therapy, healing and restoration of the affected parties are often missed. They are