Section 16 Public Order Act (Affray) – Reparation Programme


Section 16 Public Order Act (Affray)

Reparation Programme

Joe, a young adult, was charged with affray following an incident in a fast food restaurant on New Year’s Day. He pleaded guilty and the District Court referred the matter to an NGO which delivers restorative justice to assess whether it would be suitable for a restorative approach. 

The incident occurred at 2am on New Year’s Day. A fight commenced between two groups on the street outside the restaurant and spilled into the restaurant. Joe was involved in the fight together with a number of acquaintances. The Gardaí were called to the scene and dispersed the group. Joe was later identified on CCTV as involved in fighting behind the service counter of the restaurant and was seen lifting the cash register and smashing it on the service counter, causing damage of €250. The restaurant had to close for around an hour after the incident to clean the premises, and a quantity of food had to be destroyed and could not be sold as the kitchen area had been disrupted during the incident. This resulted in further financial loss for the restaurant. Joe was one of several persons charged with Affray.

Joe met with the NGO’s Caseworker to discuss the offence and his participation in restorative justice. The Caseworker also met Bill, the restaurant manager, to discuss what had happened and what he would like to see happen next, informing him of his options regarding his participation in restorative justice. 

Joe expressed remorse for what happened and took responsibility for his actions, although he felt that there were elements of the night he could not remember. He expressed a willingness to make amends and apologise. 

Bill explained that the incident had caused distress to restaurant staff and customers on the night, and had financial implications for his business. He knew Joe as a regular customer and had not had trouble with Joe before. He did not feel the need to sit down with Joe for a formal meeting, but was satisfied to see the matter proceed to a reparation panel and for Bill’s views and desired reparation to be discussed. Bill was happy to meet Joe to receive his apology and also to see him offer some reparation to the restaurant. The case was considered suitable to proceed to a reparation panel as Joe expressed his remorse and willingness to make reparation, and Bill expressed his satisfaction for matters to proceed as such. 

A reparation panel was convened and attended by Joe, the NGO Caseworker, and a local Garda and two community volunteers who were trained to participate in restorative meetings. At the panel meeting, Joe was asked to explain what had happened and to consider who had been affected by his actions and how.

Joe explained that he had been drinking from 1pm on New Year’s Eve until approximately 2am when the incident occurred. At the start of the panel meeting, Joe spoke about not really remembering what had happened. As the meeting progressed, the importance of accepting responsibility as a key component of restorative justice was discussed, as it had when Joe had his initial meeting with the Caseworker. Joe said that he was unable to recall the details of the incident the next day but, when he subsequently saw the CCTV footage, he was shocked and accepted responsibility for his actions and pleaded guilty to the offence.  

The panel discussed the impact of the offence on the staff and customers of the restaurant, and the financial loss suffered by Bill. The Garda also gave an account of what had happened. Joe engaged in conversation around his alcohol use. He said that he was unemployed and not in education. He expressed an interest in getting back to education and he discussed his hopes in this regard. 

Joe was shocked to hear that Bill had described it as the worst incident he had seen in almost twelve years of running the restaurant. Joe said that drinking sometimes resulted in trouble for him; he previously received an adult caution for another public order offence. 

After hearing Bill’s point of view, Joe stated that he was extremely sorry for what happened. He was asked what needed to happen next in relation to the offence and he agreed to complete a series of actions to make amends. Joe agreed to undertake the following:

  1. Apologise to Bill and to the restaurant staff.  
  2. Repay €250 to the restaurant in respect of the damaged cash register.
  3. Volunteer for 30 hours in the restaurant to help with cleaning and set up procedure on Friday mornings until the hours were completed. 
  4. Meet with Drug and Alcohol Services for assessment, education and/or counselling as deemed appropriate by the service provider. 

During an agreed period, Joe completed all the tasks to which he agreed. The NGO Caseworker stayed in contact with Joe and Bill. At an agreed time, Joe met Bill and apologised and made arrangements for his reparation. He also apologised to other staff when he met them while completing his voluntary work. Joe paid the €250 in respect of the cash register and met with Drug and Alcohol support services. A report was provided to the District Court detailing the restorative process, the agreement reached and the reparation that was undertaken. Following consideration by the Judge, the matter was struck out with no further sanction imposed. 

Following the completion of the matter in Court, the NGO Caseworker liaised with both parties to communicate the outcome. Bill reported satisfaction with the reparation process, including the opportunity to participate and to have a say. He expressed his hope that Joe had learned from what happened and that he continued to be welcome in the restaurant. Joe felt satisfied with the outcome and advised that he had enrolled on a course of further education in Fitness and Personal Training to start in the coming months.