Dutch mediators, lawyers and police eager to follow Accessibility and Initiation of Restorative Justice training in the Netherlands
Utrecht, 11 and 12 march 2014
On the 11th and 12th of March 2014, the training of the European project “Accessibility and initiation of Restorative Justice” took place in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The Verwey-Jonker Institute hosted 21 participants (a mix of mediators, lawyers, probation workers and police) and several trainers and staff members in a two-day event. Most of the participants are involved in the new Dutch pilots on mediation at court level or at police level that started in October 2013.
The training was set up together with local trainers, the project coordinator of the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) and a Swedish trainer linked to the project. The training programme was conceived in an interactive setup between theory and practical skills on accessibility and initiation of RJ practices. The focus of the training was twofold: to give the participants some in depth knowledge on RJ theory and regulations abroad, but also to work on daily cases and practical skills that possibly can improve the numbers of participants getting access to mediation or conferencing.
Hans Boutellier, director of the Verwey-Jonker Institute, welcomed the whole group and pointed at having a warm heart for RJ. During the introduction round participants were asked to tell their hopes and fears for the two training days which already gave good insights in the motivation of the participants. Most are involved in some of the new pilots (either at court or police level) and are eager to learn. The participants were introduced to the research project and the concepts of accessibility and initiation by Malini Laxminarayan who is coordinating the project. The second lecture was given by expert and trainer Eleonore Lind from Sweden who gave insights in the RJ regulations and practice in Sweden. In Sweden, the police is the prime referrer to victim offender mediation. There are guidelines for this and since 2012 there is a new law that provides the legal basis for mediation in penal matters. She also worked around the aspect of communication with the different stakeholders. It already resulted in interesting discussions and ideas about the difference between the Dutch and Swedish situation.
After the lunch a mini master class on working with RJ was held by trainer and coach Gert Jan Slump. It was an interactive master class with a special focus on accessibility, initiation and awareness. The participants worked in small groups on an awareness pitch for RJ and an action plan. Some of those action plans were about: making more time for RJ; talk to lawyers about mediation; make contact with the local police to create awareness; mobilize the front; make sure the pilots will be a success; to become a neighbourhood mediator; start with mediation at schools; continue with restorative circles; change the culture and talk openly about mediation; make a movie about RJ. It resulted in lively discussions afterwards. The day was closed with a joint dinner.
On day two another full training programme was held. The first exercise was an interactive one held by two employees of the mediation office of the Court of Amsterdam about RJ in practice. The participants came up with good ideas about how to formulate a letter to a victim offering the possibility of mediation and dealing with resistance. After the interactive morning part Leo van Garsse, a Flamish expert who started working in this field already in the late eighties gave a lecture about RJ in Belgium and his vision on RJ and the criminal justice system. To learn about developments in Belgium and to reflect on more philosophical aspects of mediation, on aspects of democracy and citizenship, on how you can address victims and offenders, was inspiring for the participants and gave room for lively discussions. In the afternoon two mediators, Janny Dierx and Lei Roekel, gave an presentation about the daily practice of mediation. They pointed out some dilemma’s and did some exercises with the participants, for example on how to work with excuses in face to face conversations.
At the end of the two day training everybody looked back at the hopes and fears of the first day. Many were positive about what they learned and took home inspiration to do more with RJ. The reactions from the participant in the evaluation process showed also that they were satisfied with the training and were inspired by the different speakers.
Hopes and Fears that were mentioned on the first day:
H: I want to learn from other countries, how they implemented RJ and find inspiration
F: That we won’t be able to give the ideas ‘hands and feet’.
H: Learning about RJ, can it be used by the police? Change the mind-set of the police.
Attorney criminal law, mediator
H: I’m very optimistic about RJ in criminal cases. Learn about other countries.
F: My fear is that there is too much fear.
Quote from a trainer:
Gert Jan Slump, criminologist and trainer, co-founder of Restorative Justice Nederland, gave the mini master class on how to work with RJ. He said:
“My goal during our master classes ‘making work of restorative justice’ was to make and challenge trainees mastering their own professional process. During this training the participants were eager and seduced to get out of their comfort zone, take responsibility in innovating their practice into a more restorative way. Great job!”
One of the awareness pitches that a group made was this:
“Why attorneys laugh when it comes to mediation? Attorneys think: “There you have again a psychologist who is so soft? Often as an attorney you have cases whereby the evidence is so big and the client confessed. You gain nothing with it. What then?” Attorneys should question: To what extent is it only about the criminal case? It is more than that … Your client is also a neighbour, a husband or employee. As a lawyer you can also think about the relationship that your client has. Consider mediation! And concentrate on the relationship. Cases can be dismissed. Are you a bad lawyer if you do mediation? I think not!”