15 October 2005

Kangaroo court jibe sparks fury

Daily Ireland

By Jarlath Kearney

Community Restorative Justice volunteers have hit back at SDLP Policing Board member Eddie McGrady after he likened many of the projects to kangaroo courts.

The MP for South Down accused the projects of engaging in “intimidation” to set up an alternative and unaccountable policing service in the North. Community Restorative Justice Ireland director Jim Auld called the SDLP position “totally hypocritical”.
Mr McGrady told BBC radio yesterday that Community Restorative Justice projects “are in many, many cases an element of kangaroo court”.
“In South Down and elsewhere, the particularly Sinn Féin political party has been engaged in setting up committees in communities gathered throughout the constituency, quite frankly as a basis of an alternative to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and also I would argue very strongly as a measure of sustaining an element of control over the local community.
“Sometimes they result in punishments. I think, if one was to probe into lots of communities throughout Northern Ireland, they would find that particularly the young people are suffering from this type of intimidation, which is a total denial of their basic human rights and justice… they have a network and they’ve a headquarters. I mean, this is the extent that the organisation has got to,” Mr McGrady said.
The SDLP man said he was in favour of Community Restorative Justice work but that the scheme “has to be under the jurisdiction, as it were, of the judicial system”.
An outraged Jim Auld of CRJ responded: “I offered, on a number of occasions, a position to the SDLP policing spokesperson Alex Attwood on the CRJ board of directors.
“Similar offers were made to Sinn Féin and a number of other agencies and people from within the nationalist community because we recognise that CRJ gets its strength from the breadth and depth of the people in that community. Thankfully, we have the vast majority of those people supportive of CRJ.
“The standards that we use are equivalent and compliant with the international standards agreed on restorative justice in the Vienna Convention. The training that all staff in CRJ — including employees and volunteers — receive are nationally accredited training programmes. We are local people working in local areas.
“As well as that, we have offered our entire organisation to be inspected by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, and we are currently in talks with the NIO to get agreement on protocols where we can work alongside the other institutions of the state. Those talks are ongoing but haven’t yet been agreed. We feel we have done everything in our power to include as many people in the community as possible in our projects, and the SDLP problem is that they have excluded themselves from this worthwhile and valuable initiative. It is totally hypocritical,” Mr Auld said.
Sinn Féin South Down assembly member Caitríona Ruane described Mr McGrady’s attack as “a smokescreen because the SDLP was presented with the choice of continuing to fight for a new beginning to policing or accepting less, and they accepted less”.
“They know they have done wrong, and the communities are very clear that they [the SDLP] have failed in terms of negotiating.
“Eddie McGrady’s misrepresentation of CRJ is part of that smokescreen. CRJ has been subject to evaluation from groups like the Department of Social Development and, in local neighbourhoods, the Housing Executive and other groups like the Probation Board accept and approve of CRJ’s efforts.
“What we’re saying is that we need a policing service that is accountable and representative, which we don’t have at the moment, and that we also have Community Restorative Justice. The two are very, very different,” she said.

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