A. Service overview and contact details
Focus of restorative justice activities
Le Chéile Mentoring is a national organisation which works to make positive changes in the lives of young people who offend and their families, through the provision of mentoring, family support and restorative justice services. It works across 12 counties and its mentoring services are provided through a network of trained volunteers. Its restorative justice services are provided in Limerick and Clare and include a victim empathy programme, reparation programme, victim-offender mediation, victim impact panels and restorative justice conferencing. Le Chéile staff also provide SynRJ-approved training.
Year of commencement
The Le Chéile Restorative Justice Project was established in 2010.
Le Chéile Mentoring
The Hub, O’Malley Park
Head of service
Tel. 086 7966440
Staff training in restorative justice
Staff are trained in RJ skills. The training is provided by SynRJ and Restorative Now.
Use of volunteers
Volunteers have two main roles in supporting clients in the project: supporting the client to complete pieces of work under reparation projects (see below); and participating in victim impact panels (see below), where they themselves have been victims of crime. Volunteers do not have any role in facilitating mediations or conferences. Volunteers also support young people referred to the mentoring service, adopting a restorative practices framework. The Restorative Justice Project Officer works directly with all clients.
Training of volunteers in restorative justice
All Le Chéile Mentoring volunteers nationally are offered the opportunity to complete a one-day ‘Introduction to Restorative Practices Training’. Volunteers with the RJ project who have been victims of crime in the past are offered the opportunity to complete a 2-day ‘Victim Impact Panel Training’. In 2020, 59 volunteers across Ireland trained in restorative practices to support young people being mentored, with 23 completing face-to-face training and 36 completing online training (because of the pandemic).
Main source(s) of funding
Le Chéile Mentoring is funded by the Probation Service. The Restorative Justice Project is co-funded by Le Chéile Mentoring and Limerick City and County Council, with additional funding from the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime.
€74,000 (Restorative Justice Project in 2020)
Nature of funding
Le Chéile Restorative Justice Project operates within the Mid-West Region of Le Chéile Mentoring, which is a national organisation with charity status.
Target client group
Young people aged 12-23 (and, in certain circumstances, up to the age of 25) who have offended and are subject to court-imposed Probation Orders.
Nature of offences
The crimes committed by the young people include, but are not limited to, public order, drug possession, car theft, burglary, arson, threatening and abusive behaviour, knife crime, and possession of drugs for sale or supply.
Source of cases
Probation Service and the Garda Síochána (Juvenile Liaison Officers)
Geographic area of activity
Limerick and Clare (Restorative Justice Project)
B. Nature of RJ service
Model(s) of RJ services provided
- Victim empathy programme
- Reparation programme
- Victim-offender mediation
- Victim impact panels
- Restorative justice conferences
- Training and events
- Restorative knife crime programme (piloted in 2020)
Main process elements and short description of each model that the service provides
Short description of each model
- The victim empathy programme entails one-to-one meetings with Le Chéile aimed at helping the young people develop empathy, and understand the impact of their actions and how they might put things right.
- The reparation programme allows the young person to repair the harm done to victims by doing work for the community. It is considered important that the reparation is meaningful to all parties involved. The work can be agreed at a restorative justice conference or be identified by the referring agency. The young person is assessed by Le Chéile and an appropriate intervention agreed with them and, if aged under 18, with parental consent. They are supported throughout the reparation by a volunteer or a staff member. A number of host agents in Limerick City facilitate reparation programmes. The main aims are relationship building, reconciliation, and identifying the next steps to repair the harm. On completion of the intervention, Le Chéile makes a report to the referring agency. The average duration of interventions is 6 months.
- The victim-offender mediation programme follows the standard model where the victim and offender, helped by a facilitator, communicate with one another. Questions may be asked, information exchanged, and an agreement reached. In some cases, the victim and offender may not meet, but may communicate indirectly.
- Victim impact panels provide a forum for crime victims to tell the young offenders (who have committed a similar offence) about the impact of the crime on their lives and on the lives of their families, friends and neighbours. Meetings normally include a volunteer, the young person and a parent/support person, with a staff member facilitating. The volunteers act as substitute/proxy victim in a partly-restorative process to encourage the development of the client’s empathy.
- In a restorative justice conference, the victim, the offender and their supporters meet in a conference with a trained facilitator. The agree an outcome agreement, which sets out what the offender will do to address the harm done.
- Training is provided to staff and volunteers involved with the project. Training covers victim impact panels (2 days) and introductory restorative justice (1 day). Training in restorative justice conference facilitation skills (3 days) is provided to professionals in the community, voluntary and statutory sectors. We plan restorative justice education and awareness events annually for International Restorative Justice Week.
- Knife Crime Pilot: In 2020, at the request of Young Persons Probation in Limerick, we developed a restorative knife crime programme, based on the Scottish ‘No Knives Better Lives’ programme. The programme focuses on risks associated with knife carrying, behaviour triggers and behaviour management.
Number and nature of cases
In 2020 the Restorative Justice Project Officer post operated at reduced capacity of three days per week to cover maternity leave. The total number of clients was 21 in 2020, 31 in 2019 and 31 in 2018. Some clients participated in more than one programme.
Cases completed in 2020 and 2019
|Victim empathy programme||21||31|
|Victim impact panel||1||0|
|Restorative justice conference||0||4|
|Knife crime pilot programme||2||–|
Case processing details – 2020 (2019 data in brackets)
- Number of cases referred: 21 (31)
- Number of cases completed: 18 (29)
- Number of cases terminated early: 2, with young people not in a position to engage (2 in 2019, one due to lack of engagement from the young person and one due to lack of parental support)
- Number with victim participation – direct: 1 (4)
- Number with victim participation – indirect: 0 (5)
- Number without victim participation (not accounting for proxy victims or family members): 20 (22)
|Possession of weapon||6||8|
|Possession of Drugs||4||2|
|Handling Stolen Property||3||0|
|Drunk and Disorderly||2||0|
*Several offenders had multiple offences
21 young people took part in a victim empathy programme resulting in increased empathy and understanding of their crimes and impact on victims and their family members. Le Chéile uses the ‘Outcome Star’ instrument to monitor hard and soft outcomes for participants. This is an evidence-based tool for measuring and supporting change in young people. In 2020, recorded areas of progress by clients included mental health and wellbeing, friends and community, relationships and family, positive use of time, managing strong feelings and a crime free life. Measurements showed increased awareness in several areas, including reasoning for their choices and behaviours, the importance of support networks to achieve offending reduction goals, and steps necessary to reduce risk taking and offending behaviour. They also showed an increased understanding of the steps required to make amends to those affected by their actions through reparation.
Many of the young people who participated in the victim empathy programme spoke of being able to talk about what they had done for the first time. Others spoke of benefitting from being listened to. One said it was “possibly the only place where someone listened to them”. Many recognised that the offending affected their own parents and family members, as well as affecting direct victims. This is often the first step on the road to developing empathy.
Outcomes for the two participants in the pilot Knife Crime Programme included a greater understanding of the myths and risks associated with knife carrying and increased empathy for others.
Key findings from an independent evaluation of Le Chéile’s RJ project, carried out in 2015, included:
- Young people: increased empathy towards victims and their families, improved family relationships, decreased substance abuse, increased pro-social per relationships, and an overall reduction in criminal behaviour.
- Victims: restorative justice process were perceived as more inclusive, respectful and meaningful than traditional criminal justice approaches. They had a decreased fear of crime and anxiety, and a greater feeling of ‘closure’.
- Parents: greater understanding of child’s situation, improved parenting skills and approaches, decreased stress and anxiety, positive change in behaviour of child, and reduced stress and conflict in the home.
- Interagency work: improved ability for involved agencies to provide a range of restorative justice interventions, greater flexibility in how agencies work with young people, and high satisfaction in restorative justice training provided to Victim Liaison Officers.
- Social Return on Investment (SROI): Every €1 invested in the restorative justice project returned approximately €2.92 in social value, which increased to €3.50 when the project case load was increased by 20 percent.
Details not readily available, apart from description of the role of volunteers above.
In 2020, Le Chéile hosted an RJ educational webinar focusing on the art of engagement and a series of other RJ events in partnership with the Limerick Restorative Practices project. This webinar marked the tenth year in operation for Le Chéile’s RJ service. In 2019, events included a student council training workshop, screening of the RJ movie ‘The Meeting’, and ‘Coffee with a Cop’ events (again in collaboration with the Limerick Restorative Practices Project).
C. Sources of further information
Annual Reports and Strategies
- Annual Report 2020
- Annual Report 2019
- Annual Report 2018
- Annual Report 2017
- Le Chéile Strategic Plan 2020-2023