The Victim-offender Mediation Unit is achieving outstanding success with its innovative method of settling agreements between victims of serious crime and offenders.
Assisting Justice Minister Kevin Minson said today that recent research into the effectiveness of agreements negotiated by the unit had revealed an impressive 95 per cent success rate.
The Victim-offender Mediation Unit (VMU) was established by the Coalition Government in 1992 and is part of the Ministry of Justice.
Its role is to facilitate protective mediation agreements between victims of serious crime and perpetrators where there is likely to be contact between them.
"The process aims to provide victims with some peace of mind - an essential ingredient in the recovery process," Mr Minson said.
"It is particularly encouraging to see a success rate of this kind in a relatively new program."
Mr Minson said the formal contracts determined how contact, if any, would take place between the victim and offender after the offender was released from custody and was being supervised in the community on parole, probation, home leave or work release.
The agreements were facilitated without direct contact between the victim and the offender.
"Research recently undertaken by Jodie Wright, a postgraduate forensic psychology student at Edith Cowan University, shows conclusively that VMU agreements are working," the Minister said.
"Ms Wright examined the 162 protective mediation agreements entered into between 1993 and 1996 and found that at the completion of the offenders' release or community orders, just over 95 per cent of the agreements had been honoured.
"Minor breaches, which require a warning, where an aspect of the agreement was disregarded but the victim was not at risk, ran at three per cent.
"However, breaches of a more serious nature, where offenders' actions required notification to the releasing authorities were even lower at just 1.8 per cent."
Mr Minson said that while the VMU dealt with a wide range of serious offences, the agreements were considered particularly useful in domestic violence situations following an offender's release from goal or during the serving of a supervision order in the community.
"Agreements often look at direct and indirect contact between the parties and can cover everything from phone calls and correspondence to where offenders do their shopping if it is likely to impact on the victim," he said.
"The agreements, particularly in the management of domestic violence assault cases, have also been endorsed by the domestic violence program consultant to the Ministry, Dawson Ruhl.
"Mr Ruhl, who is acknowledged as an expert in the field, believes the agreements are an important and positive step for victims and offenders.
"He says protective agreements tend to hold together well and believes that offenders are more likely to honour an agreement to which they have been party, rather than other restrictions such as the imposition of a restraining order."
Mr Minson said all protective agreements were monitored by the VMU for the duration of the offender's release or supervision order.
"VMU staff work in a particularly sensitive area where emotions run high and the pressures are many," he said.
"Their dedication to effective mediation, which is usually only apparent to the parties directly involved in those agreements, is now evident in the successful results of this study."
Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 92211
Stacey Molloy, Ministry of Justice 264 1099