How the role of judges and lawyers change in restorative justice


Institutional Communication Service

17 March 2020

USI Law Institute (IDUSI) - home of the Italian-speaking regional branch of the Swiss RJ Forum - has started at USI a series of encounters on restorative justice. USI Law Institute (IDUSI) - home of the Italian-speaking regional branch of the Swiss RJ Forum - has started at USI a series of encounters on restorative justice. The next public conference scheduled for 6 May is organised in collaboration with the Institute of Argumentation, Linguistics and Semiotics and it will focus on criminal mediation from both a legal and linguistic point of view. In this framework we delved into the theme with Prof. Grazia Mannozzi, Professor of Criminal Law and Restorative Justice and Criminal Mediation at the University of Insubria and Director of the Study Centre on Restorative Justice and Mediation.  Professor Mannozzi was also a guest at USI for an afternoon of reflection with fifty high school students from Liceo Lugano 2, a conference aimed at fostering a discussion and a concrete training on this vision of justice in Ticino.

Restorative justice is a current topic of debate, although it is tackled in different ways among the different European countries. "If victim-offender mediation was first the dominant model, it was later realised that this was only one of the tools of cooperative conflict management. Restorative justice is currently used as an umbrella term within which various tools and techniques are placed," explains Mannozzi. This model has become an object of reflection at European level, precisely to respond to the crisis of traditional justice, which fails to give the answers that victims expect. Europe has in fact progressed in several stages: in 1999 with a Council of Europe recommendation, later supported at international level by the United Nations resolution in 2002, and ten years later with the European Directive (29/2012), which established minimum standards for the protection of victims, followed finally by Recommendation 2018 on restorative justice in criminal matters. Another important sign of change is the fact that restorative justice has become a subject taught in universities, thus giving the model a scientific dignity: "The University of Insubria was the first in Italy to establish the chair of restorative justice in 2005. The courses are attended by those who study law: this attention in the training of the jurist underlines the awareness of the dignity of the contents of the subject" continues Mannozzi.

At the heart of restorative justice is dialogue, in fact, there is also talk of "dialogic justice". The criminal trial is not in fact structured to give dialogical answers. It is a moment of examination in which the parties can speak only if questioned. If the accused has the right not to answer, the victim is instead heard as a witness, and is under the oath of telling the truth and is subject to counter-examination, inducing secondary victimisation. "The victims - explains Mannozzi - need instead to ask those questions that are not answered in the trial (why it happened, why me, etc.), overcome loneliness, shame and often even media exposure. They are all damage to the invisible system of feelings that are not repaired in the process and for this reason a protected listening space outside is needed. This is where restorative justice comes into play".

This personal attention, however, presupposes interdisciplinary skills - not only juridical in the technical sense but also concerning the understanding of relationships and social dynamics - on the part of the person in charge. The role of the lawyer and the judge have therefore changed compared to the past. "There is a need for training in justice so that lawyers and jurists have a more respectful approach to the hardship of victims, and thus first and foremost reduce secondary victimisation. - continues Mannozzi - Those who have the first contact with victims must be attentive, caring and for this they must first of all change their dialogical and relational skills". How can we be good mediators at the same time? The role is in fact essential and it is a professional profile that, according to Mannozzi, should be flanked by any type of work so as to improve our relational skills in various fields and in our daily lives. "It would be appropriate for this figure to be recognised as a profession to all intents and purposes and for investments to be made in this sense, so that it becomes a professional figure recognised as psychologist and social worker" she concludes.