As part of its efforts in the continuous decongestion of correctional facilities across the State and ensuring quick dispensation of justice, the Lagos State Ministry of Justice through the Restorative Justice Centre (RJC) on Tuesday,held a training session for Magistrates to further enhance and promote restorative justice in the Courts.
In her welcome remarks at the training session held at the Ministry’s Conference room,the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Titilayo Shitta-bey -Jeje ably represented by Mrs. Olubunmi Olugasa, noted that restorative justice is an approach to justice that seeks to repair harm by providing an opportunity for those harmed and those who take responsibility for the harm to communicate and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime.
According to the Solicitor General, restorative justice is based on understanding that crime is a violation of people and relationships while encouraging meaningful engagement and accountability that provides an opportunity for healing, reparation and reintegration into the society.
“the goals of the Lagos State Restorative Justice programme includes, reduction of recidivism, increasing victim satisfaction, strengthening communities, reducing incarceration and increasing public confidence in the justice system”.
Shitta-bey-Jeje further reiterated that the training session will present an opportunity to create more awareness about Restorative Justice as well as a platform to receive feedback from stakeholders(Magistrates )on how to improve and further strengthen the idea of restorative justice in the criminal justice system.
Delivering her speech titled: Introduction to Restorative Justice (identifying cases fit for RJ and dealing with the outcome in court), Acting Director of the Lagos State Multi-door Court House, Mrs. Achere Cole, stated that restorative justice is a process that involves those who have a stake in a specific offense to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations in order to heal and put things as right as possible.
“the corner posts of restorative justice comprises the inclusion of all parties, encountering the other party, reparation, reintegration of parties into their community and active accountability”.
Mrs Cole during her interactive session with Magistrates stressed that restorative justice program deals with relatively minor offences with the exclusion of capital offences, sexual offences, kidnapping, domestic violence and terrorism under the Lagos State Judiciary Restorative Justice Practice Directions 2019.
Achere explained that there are guidelines for screening and case admittance in restorative justice which includes policy consideration, mental health, age of offender, if they are a first time/multiple offender or a chemical abuser.
she said that restorative justice is a flexible process which can take different forms depending on the community, program, case, participants, or circumstances. It also uses processes that may take place at all stages of the criminal justice system and can be used on both adults and youths.
The Coordinator Restorative Justice Centre, Mrs. Adenike Oluwafemi noted that case referrals to the centre is only possible when both parties are willing to submit to the concept of restorative justice.
“Referral forms are filled by the Magistrates, scanned and forwarded to the restorative justice centre’s email address where it is recorded and a time will be scheduled for both parties to meet” she said.
Mrs Adenike also noted that the centre is always open to discuss matters and if it can’t be resolved, other resources will be provided to assist and support both parties.
Delivering the Vote of thanks,the Assistant Coordinator Restorative Justice Centre, Mrs Temitope Soewu expressed immense gratitude to the Lagos State Government, the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice, Directors and Magistrates for their support towards ensuring a speedy dispensation of justice in the State.
The one day interactive and educative training session was well attended by Magistrates of the States Judiciary and provided opportunity to deliberate on the workability of Restorative Justice in their various courts.