Minister of Justice and Correctional Services advocate Michael Masutha speaks at Unisa on restorative justice. Picture: James Mahlokwane

Johannesburg - Justice and Correctional Services Minister advocate Michael Masutha on Monday hosted a restorative justice colloquium that sought to put equal or more focus on victims of crime than on perpetrators.
He engaged various stakeholders, academics, rehabilitation and civil organisations at Unisa about the government’s restorative justice initiatives.

Government policy “says we need to ensure we restore the victims or survivors of crime to the centre of the criminal justice system as opposed to, seemingly, the periphery where the victim currently is in many respects”.

“To that effect, we must make sure we do not only focus on what happens to the perpetrator in terms of their rights under the Constitution.

We are saying what happens to the victim or the survivor of the incident equally - if not more importantly - matters.” Restorative justice aimed to move victims from where the crimes were experienced to a place where they had more comfort, and were assisted to come to terms with what happened.

“This is so that they are able to survive their ordeal, move on in life, and be able to lead a normal life again.

“If they can forget it all together, all the better. But to achieve that, the offender needs to be brought into the equation to help correct their actions.” As for offenders sentenced to life, he had instructed his department to find the victims or families of the victims before submitting a parole application of the “lifer” for consideration. This would avoid victims or relatives of victims being surprised by seeing former offenders walking freely in society without prior engagement.

However, Masutha’s decision saw him and his department criticised and exposed to litigation for opposing requirements deemed not necessary according to the law. “I take courage in a recent Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that I should have taken into consideration a victim impact statement before a decision on the parole application of one particular offender.”

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