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



As regular courtroom processes come to be unpopular, there has been recourse to adaptable modes of adjudication by different dispute resolution. In the prison justice context, substitute dispute resolution mechanisms encompass many techniques that are not accessible in the mainstream legal justice method. These techniques incorporate victim-offender mediation, relatives team conferencing, sufferer-offender panels, sufferer support applications, neighborhood criminal offense prevention plans, sentencing circles, ex-offender guidance, and community provider. The use of the aforementioned procedures in the criminal justice method is connected to the restorative justice motion, which seeks to shift the emphasis from the violation of the state and the want for punishment, in direction of reparation to the victim. The most popular approach beneath the restorative justice motion which this report will examine is sufferer-offender mediation.

Sufferer-Offender Mediation (VOM) is a process that offers an prospect for the sufferer and offender to have face-to-face discussions in a structured location with the help of a mediator, to make factors ideal as significantly as probable, and to decide how to take care of just about every other in the future. The concentration of victim-offender mediation is on dialogue, forgiveness, accountability, and reconciliation. The exercise originated from Canada as an experiment in Kitchener, Ontario, in the early 1970s, when a youthful officer convinced a judge that two youths convicted of vandalism must satisfy with the victims of their crimes. Just after the meetings, the decide purchased the youths to fork out restitution to people victims as a problem of probation. This experiment afterwards advanced into an arranged target-offender reconciliation plan.[1]

Legal bases for VOM in Ghana:

In numerous jurisdictions throughout the globe, specially in Latin The usa, the use of sufferer-offender mediation is based mostly on certain enabling legislation. In Ghana, there are two principal legislation that sort the authorized bases of VOM the Courts Act, 2010 (ACT 459), and the Children’s Act, 1998 (ACT 560).[2] [kindly check this footnote].

  • Area 73 of the Courts Act, 1993 offers:

Any courtroom, with legal jurisdiction, may possibly encourage reconciliation, encourage and aid a settlement in an amicable method of any offense not amounting to felony and not aggravated in degree, on payment circumstances of payment or on other conditions authorized by the courtroom ahead of which the situation is tried using, and may well all through the pendency of the negotiations for a settlement continue to be the continuing for a fair time and in the event of a settlement staying effected shall dismiss the situation and discharge the accused human being [emphasis mine]

From the earlier mentioned, the legislation encourages courts with criminal jurisdiction to market reconciliation in between the target and offender and facilitate a settlement. The settlement could be by payment or by any signifies approved by the court. The language utilized in the earlier mentioned provision displays an intention by the lawmaker to prescribe a target-offender mediation method. The court could determine to place a keep on the proceedings until settlement. If they settle, the courtroom will have to dismiss the case and discharge the offender. It is worthy to be aware that the provision only covers felonies and severe offenses that are aggravated in degree. All forms of felonies and really serious offenses are consequently not inside the scope of offenses amenable to VOM- this is the common posture in several international locations.[3] The offence prescription is essential for the reason that making it attainable for specified major crimes (like rape, murder, and theft) to be dealt with by mediation could instill fear of re-victimization, and this can guide to self-assistance solutions that can manifest in quick justice to offenders. The shortcoming of the aboveprovision is that it does not empower the sufferer or offender to implement for the matter to be referred to mediation.

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

A baby panel shall guide in victim-offender mediation in minimal felony issues involving a kid wherever the conditions of the offense are not aggravated.

A youngster panel may well, in the study course of mediation, propose an apology or restitution to the offended particular person.

The regulation supplies for the composition of a baby panel to offer with non-significant offenses committed by juveniles by making use of VOM. Through the mediation, the panel can propose that the youngster renders an apology or restitution to the offended individual.

Fundamental good reasons for its use:

Applying VOM is essential to ensure that victims are not disenfranchised from participation in the prison justice procedure. The common legal justice method does not realize crime as a sort of social conflict and focuses on the punishment of the offender. Commonly, the sufferer is wholly detached from the method until necessary to discover the offender and testify in courtroom. Neither the loved ones of the target nor the local community will get any direct involvement in the process. The obvious neglect of victims is reflected in the silence on the suitable of victims in the 1992 Structure. The Structure, which has stipulated fair demo policies comprehensively, is dedicated to respecting the legal rights of the accusedperson. There are no distinctive provisions for victims as they are deemed the invisible get-togethers in the complete procedure.

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

‘’The standard follow of dealing with prison offenses was succinctly stated as “a crime is an offense not only against the unfortunate target but also against the modern society and in the machinery of justice made to identify and to punish the culprit the offense in opposition to the culture element is intensely emphasized occasionally at the cost of the target. As a normal rule, legal prosecutions are carried out by culture, employing its corporate name: The Republic. …..the private particular person, who is the sufferer of the crime dedicated, is beneath sizeable incapacity in the regulate of the scenario arising out of his misfortune. The law does not figure out him as a celebration to the case. He, as a complainant, may possibly be a witness for the prosecution. In that party, his situation is generally no diverse from that of any other witness.”[4] VOM, as a result, serves as the bridge to assure that victims are included in the prison justice course of action. 

1 of the primary explanations for the use of VOM is that the target obtains compensation for losses incurred from the fee of the crime. Victims are extra probably to obtain restitution by means of VOM than by means of the court docket. Restitution could be in the sort of economic redress for the victim, fix or return of home, and the provision of some immediate products and services to the victim. By supplying restitution, VOM does much more than restore the sufferer to the standing quo ante instead, it aims at restoration to an great situation. The restitution is not only compensatory but may perhaps embody an apology and atonement by the offender.

The significant psychological advantage constitutes a aspect for the recourse to VOM. The target may well categorical his or her sights straight to the offender, and the sufferer gets solutions to some lingering concerns about the offense. It could then be argued that when the sufferer confronts the offender, the offender gains insight into the effects of the crime. There are specific factors that the courtroom may deem irrelevant which may possibly be contextually relevant to the sufferer and offenders in themediation. The software of this idea to VOM reflects the actuality that a sufferer is a authentic man or woman and not an invisible entity.

VOM is an much easier mechanism to use in instances that are so small that there is no need to have for a full demo in court. These types of instances are less complicated to solve, and the victims feel much more inspired to just take portion in disposing of these issues speedily, advertising and marketing powerful scenario administration. This relieves the courts of their at any time-increasing workload.

VOM relieves rigidity that may usually have been created by the official court process and provides a perception of power to the get-togethers. The capability to navigate a stressful legal process empowers both of those sides.

Shortcomings of the VOM system:

Critics of VOM argue that the method incorrectly presumes that a victim’s negative thoughts can be expressed and addressed in a couple of several hours put in mediating with the offender.[5] The retort is that even nevertheless a victim’s psychological wants might in the end finest be tackled by a mental wellness specialist, legal mediation presents the target a exceptional opportunity they do not have entry to in the traditional prison proceedings, i.e. to fulfill and confront their offender.

To other individuals, the see that victims want greater participation in the legal justice system may possibly be a fallacy immediately after all. Some victims come to feel that VOM procedures are not adequately punishment oriented. They are thus unwilling to consider part or may perhaps be disruptive if they participate. These victims would desire the offender faces the entire rigor of the regulation.

There have been worries that the procedure might improve the dread and anxiety suffered by victims and therefore represent secondary victimization.[6] Occasionally, the perform of some offenders may perhaps render the complete method worthless. In the course of the mediation, the offender could be unwilling to display remorse, apologize, or confess accountability for their steps. Some offenders may faux regret throughout the approach, hoping to get lenient sentences. This angle can make a mockery of the total procedure, and the evident reconciliation is then no reconciliation at all. Some offenders may well even rationalize their habits by putting up a moral justification for their actions. Some may well even become extremely defensive and blame the victims. For instance, a burglar could blame the sufferer for obtaining a weak safety procedure in their developing.


VOM has heralded a new dawn for victims and offenders to have equal entry to the justice equipment. Indeed, this type of restorative justice is each ahead-looking and backward-wanting as it specials with the consequences of a crime and also how to reduce them in the upcoming.[7]

For VOM to prosper, there need to be actions to that outcome. It is essential for critical gamers in the criminal justice method to be qualified and educated on the concepts of VOM and how best they can implement this mediation software. Mediators can also obtain further education to undertake this distinctive method of mediation. There must be a normal express recognition of VOM by way of legislation or by the modification of the Option Dispute Resolution Act to enhance the provision in the Courts Act. This recognition should anxiety voluntariness and the need for consent of the victim before the graduation of mediation. There need to also be a prescription for the victim or the prosecution to utilize for a felony matter to be referred for mediation.

VOM achieves accountability and fairness in the prison justice method amongst offenders, victims, family members, and societies at significant. Stakeholders have to therefore have a renewed mindset in the direction of criminals and revise their conceptions of what constitutes punishment and sentencing, as very well 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 area 64 of the Substitute Dispute Resolution Act, 2010 (Act 798) which prescribes remaining proceedings for mediation types a authorized foundation for VOM. The writer proffers that the procedure explained in that area applies to only civil proceedings somewhat than legal proceedings.

[3] Albert Fiadjoe, Alternate Dispute Resolution: A Producing Environment Standpoint, p. 69

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

[5] Larysa Simms, Legal Mediation is the BASF, of the Prison Justice Procedure: Not Changing Common Legal Adjudication, Just generating it Superior (2007)

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

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


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