June 8, 2023


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An Examination of Victim-Offender Mediation in the Criminal Justice System

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As regular court docket processes grow to be unpopular, there has been recourse to versatile modes of adjudication through option dispute resolution. In the prison justice context, choice dispute resolution mechanisms encompass several tactics that are not available in the mainstream prison justice method. These procedures involve sufferer-offender mediation, loved ones group conferencing, target-offender panels, target guidance applications, local community crime prevention programs, sentencing circles, ex-offender guidance, and local community service. The use of the aforementioned processes in the felony justice program is joined to the restorative justice motion, which seeks to shift the emphasis from the violation of the condition and the require for punishment, in the direction of reparation to the target. The most prevalent method beneath the restorative justice movement which this posting will analyze is sufferer-offender mediation.

Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM) is a course of action that delivers an opportunity for the victim and offender to have confront-to-confront conversations in a structured environment with the enable of a mediator, to make matters proper as much as probable, and to choose how to handle each individual other in the potential. The target of victim-offender mediation is on dialogue, forgiveness, accountability, and reconciliation. The observe originated from Canada as an experiment in Kitchener, Ontario, in the early 1970s, when a youthful officer persuaded a choose that two youths convicted of vandalism really should meet with the victims of their crimes. Immediately after the meetings, the decide ordered the youths to pay out restitution to those victims as a affliction of probation. This experiment later on advanced into an arranged victim-offender reconciliation program.[1]

Legal bases for VOM in Ghana:

In numerous jurisdictions across the world, specially in Latin The us, the use of target-offender mediation is based on particular enabling laws. In Ghana, there are two major laws that kind the legal bases of VOM the Courts Act, 2010 (ACT 459), and the Children’s Act, 1998 (ACT 560).[2] [kindly check this footnote].

  • Portion 73 of the Courts Act, 1993 gives:

Any court, with prison jurisdiction, might market reconciliation, really encourage and facilitate a settlement in an amicable fashion of any offense not amounting to felony and not aggravated in degree, on payment situations of compensation or on other conditions approved by the court just before which the case is tried, and may for the duration of the pendency of the negotiations for a settlement continue to be the continuing for a acceptable time and in the party of a settlement staying effected shall dismiss the circumstance and discharge the accused individual [emphasis mine]

From the previously mentioned, the law encourages courts with prison jurisdiction to advertise reconciliation in between the sufferer and offender and facilitate a settlement. The settlement could be by compensation or by any implies approved by the court. The language used in the over provision displays an intention by the lawmaker to prescribe a sufferer-offender mediation course of action. The courtroom could decide to set a keep on the proceedings until finally settlement. If they settle, the court docket must dismiss the case and discharge the offender. It is worthy to be aware that the provision only handles felonies and major offenses that are aggravated in diploma. All varieties of felonies and significant offenses are thus not within just the scope of offenses amenable to VOM- this is the common situation in several countries.[3] The offence prescription is necessary since building it attainable for sure critical crimes (like rape, murder, and robbery) to be dealt with by mediation could instill worry of re-victimization, and this can direct to self-assistance strategies that can manifest in immediate justice to offenders. The shortcoming of the aboveprovision is that it does not empower the victim or offender to use for the subject to be referred to mediation.

(ii) The Children’s Act, 1998 (ACT 560) also expressly acknowledges VOM in the juvenile criminal justice process. Section 32 (1) and (6) presents:

A boy or girl panel shall support in sufferer-offender mediation in insignificant legal issues involving a child in which the circumstances of the offense are not aggravated.

A boy or girl panel might, in the course of mediation, suggest an apology or restitution to the offended particular person.

The regulation provides for the composition of a baby panel to deal with non-significant offenses fully commited by juveniles by making use of VOM. Through the mediation, the panel can propose that the child renders an apology or restitution to the offended individual.

Fundamental motives for its use:

Working with VOM is necessary to ensure that victims are not disenfranchised from participation in the felony justice technique. The common felony justice procedure does not figure out criminal offense as a variety of social conflict and focuses on the punishment of the offender. Ordinarily, the victim is wholly detached from the process unless required to discover the offender and testify in court docket. Neither the household of the target nor the neighborhood gets any immediate involvement in the course of action. The evident neglect of victims is reflected in the silence on the appropriate of victims in the 1992 Constitution. The Structure, which has stipulated good demo regulations comprehensively, is committed to respecting the rights of the accusedperson. There are no particular provisions for victims as they are viewed as the invisible get-togethers in the full approach.

The late A.N.E Amissah also captures the invisibility of victims in this way:

‘’The common follow of working with prison offenses was succinctly mentioned as “a criminal offense is an offense not only against the unfortunate victim but also from the culture and in the machinery of justice intended to establish and to punish the culprit the offense in opposition to the culture element is intensely emphasized occasionally at the cost of the victim. As a general rule, criminal prosecutions are undertaken by modern society, applying its corporate title: The Republic. …..the non-public person, who is the victim of the criminal offense fully commited, is under substantial incapacity in the handle of the scenario arising out of his misfortune. The regulation does not understand him as a social gathering to the scenario. He, as a complainant, may be a witness for the prosecution. In that celebration, his place is generally no different from that of any other witness.”[4] VOM, therefore, serves as the bridge to make sure that victims are associated in the criminal justice procedure. 

1 of the main reasons for the use of VOM is that the target obtains payment for losses incurred from the fee of the criminal offense. Victims are a lot more very likely to get restitution by means of VOM than through the court. Restitution could be in the sort of financial redress for the victim, fix or return of home, and the provision of some direct products and services to the target. By supplying restitution, VOM does far more than restore the target to the position quo ante instead, it aims at restoration to an great place. The restitution is not only compensatory but could embody an apology and atonement by the offender.

The important psychological profit constitutes a variable for the recourse to VOM. The sufferer may categorical his or her sights immediately to the offender, and the sufferer receives solutions to some lingering questions about the offense. It could then be argued that when the target confronts the offender, the offender gains insight into the effects of the crime. There are selected components that the court may well deem irrelevant which may be contextually pertinent to the target and offenders in themediation. The application of this concept to VOM demonstrates the simple fact that a target is a real man or woman and not an invisible entity.

VOM is an less difficult system to use in instances that are so minimal that there is no will need for a full demo in courtroom. This kind of conditions are a lot easier to take care of, and the victims experience additional inspired to just take portion in disposing of these kinds of matters swiftly, selling helpful case management. This relieves the courts of their at any time-growing workload.

VOM relieves tension that may well normally have been developed by the formal courtroom system and presents a feeling of ability to the events. The potential to navigate a nerve-racking prison process empowers each sides.

Shortcomings of the VOM procedure:

Critics of VOM argue that the process improperly presumes that a victim’s destructive feelings can be expressed and tackled in a pair of several hours spent mediating with the offender.[5] The retort is that even though a victim’s psychological requires may perhaps eventually very best be dealt with by a mental overall health qualified, prison mediation features the sufferer a one of a kind opportunity they do not have accessibility to in the traditional felony proceedings, i.e. to meet up with and confront their offender.

To others, the view that victims want greater participation in the legal justice course of action may be a fallacy after all. Some victims really feel that VOM procedures are not adequately punishment oriented. They are hence unwilling to consider part or might be disruptive if they take part. This sort of victims would prefer the offender faces the full rigor of the regulation.

There have been problems that the process may possibly greatly enhance the fear and worry suffered by victims and hence represent secondary victimization.[6] Often, the carry out of some offenders may well render the total process nugatory. In the course of the mediation, the offender could be unwilling to display regret, apologize, or confess responsibility for their steps. Some offenders may possibly bogus remorse all through the approach, hoping to get lenient sentences. This frame of mind would make a mockery of the total procedure, and the clear reconciliation is then no reconciliation at all. Some offenders may possibly even rationalize their actions by placing up a ethical justification for their steps. Some may perhaps even turn out to be really defensive and blame the victims. For instance, a burglar could blame the sufferer for owning a weak protection program in their developing.


VOM has heralded a new dawn for victims and offenders to have equal entry to the justice machinery. Indeed, this sort of restorative justice is both of those forward-on the lookout and backward-looking as it deals with the results of a criminal offense and also how to avert them in the potential.[7]

For VOM to thrive, there will have to be measures to that effect. It is vital for essential players in the felony justice method to be experienced and knowledgeable on the principles of VOM and how very best they can employ this mediation method. Mediators can also acquire additional teaching to undertake this distinctive manner of mediation. There need to be a general explicit recognition of VOM by legislation or by the modification of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act to complement the provision in the Courts Act. This recognition should really worry voluntariness and the have to have for consent of the victim in advance of the commencement of mediation. There should really also be a prescription for the target or the prosecution to apply for a prison make any difference to be referred for mediation.

VOM achieves accountability and fairness in the criminal justice procedure between offenders, victims, people, and societies at substantial. Stakeholders ought to thus have a renewed attitude in the direction of criminals and revise their conceptions of what constitutes punishment and sentencing, as nicely as the want for accountability to the victims.


Photo by Marcel Ardivan on Unsplash

[1] Kitchener Experiment, Peachey, 1989 at 14-16

[2] Some argue that section 64 of the Option Dispute Resolution Act, 2010 (Act 798) which prescribes keeping proceedings for mediation types a lawful basis for VOM. The author proffers that the course of action described in that section applies to only civil proceedings somewhat than criminal proceedings.

[3] Albert Fiadjoe, Alternative Dispute Resolution: A Producing Environment Point of view, p. 69

[4] A.N.E. Amissah Realistic Issue of Private Prosecutions [1970] VOL. II NO. 2 RGL 115—120

[5] Larysa Simms, Legal Mediation is the BASF, of the Criminal Justice Procedure: Not Replacing Standard Felony Adjudication, Just making it Improved (2007)

[6] Côté & Laroche, 2002 Wemmers & Canuto, 2002

[7] Skelton et al. (2008) 21(3) Acta Criminologica 47


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