AGIS 1: Working towards the creation of European training models for practitioners and legal practitioners in relation to restorative justice practices
Named after a king of ancient Sparta, AGIS is a European Commission framework programme to help police, the judiciary and professionals from the EU member states and candidate countries to co-operate in criminal matters and in the fight against crime. In 2003, the European Forum obtained funding from AGIS to work on two topics: the training of mediation practitioners on the one hand, and the training of legal practitioners in restorative justice on the other hand.
Training of mediation practitioners
Training (and support and supervision) of mediators – be it volunteers or professionals – is of utmost importance. This has been emphasised again and again, not only be mediation practitioners, local managers, umbrella organisations and governmental departments, but also by supranational bodies (for example the Council of Europe in Recommendation R(99)19 on Mediation in Penal Matters).
Last years much know-how and experience on training has been developed at the local and national level. But a strong need was felt to break through the isolation and to learn from others who try to reach the same goals, namely developing and delivering good training programmes and standards.
Thanks to the AGIS project, 11 experienced mediators and trainers from as many European countries could meet twice in order to exchange information on training. This exchange resulted in:
• a detailed overview of the organisation, contents and structure of training programmes in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, Scotland and Spain
• recommendations on the contents and the organisation of training.
The report of this part of the project is available here.
Training of legal practitioners
The active involvement and support by legal professionals is a conditio sine qua non for the effective development and implementation of restorative justice models. As this is often the case with other types of alternative or community sanctions, the potential of victim-offender mediation in many European countries is highly under-utilised. In respect to the selection and referral of appropriate cases to mediation services, the role of the (prosecuting) magistrate is crucial. But their role is also essential in regard to the outcome of mediated cases and their possible impact on the further judicial proceedings and the sentencing process (Art.10 Framework Decision 15 March 2001: ‘… ensure that any agreement between the victim and the offender … can be taken into account.’). Still another field which proves the involvement of the judiciary indispensable, is that of the necessary legal protection of all persons involved in the mediation process (the inclusion of due process safeguards and the respect for fundamental rights such as legal assistance, and for legal principles such as equality and proportionality).
The often rather limited co-operation between the representatives of the legal system and mediation services cannot be reduced to a weak organisational framework, a lack of practical skills or a lack of appropriate legal instruments. The underlying problem also refers to the legal culture. This culture concerns, among other things, the way crime problems are defined and solutions and tasks are perceived, the view on extra-judicial intervention and co-operation, the group mentality, stereotypes and resistance towards change. Therefore, training of prosecutors and judges – two legal key actors in the implementation of mediation initiatives – should concentrate on three fundamental aspects: knowledge, skills and attitudes.
With the help of the AGIS project of the European Commission, the European Forum set about developing training modules for prosecutors and judges on restorative justice. 10 judges, prosecutors and judges from 8 European countries met twice in order to develop a two-day training course for prosecutors and judges.
With financial support from the AGIS Programme European Commission – Directorate General Justice and Home Affairs