Below is a letter submitted to the Co Down spectator by Chairman of Bangor Alternatives, Pastor Mark Gordon. The letter was submitted in response to criticisms of Restorative Justice practices carried in the paper’s 7th September edition.
In response to the article ‘Living in the shadow of fear’ (Spectator 7thSeptember 2018)
Having read Iain Gray’s article ‘Living in the shadow of fear’(7/9/18), I felt compelled to respond to specific assertions suggested by the government sponsored ‘Communities in Transition’ report which alleges ‘restorative justice schemes are being used to facilitate people being intimidated out of their homes’ – ‘they facilitate the expulsion of individuals at the behest of paramilitaries.’
Firstly: Bangor Alternatives ( a government accredited restorative justice scheme) subject to audit and inspection by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate, has been working in communities across North Down since 1998, providing among many other things a wide range of interventions to prevent and address low level crime, antisocial behaviour and neighbourhood disputes.
The advisory committee consists of community representatives, three officers from the PSNI including the Sector Inspector, representatives from NIHE, elected representative from Ards and North Down Council, Church elders and the Managing Director of Northern Ireland Alternatives. For this Community in Transition report to suggest local restorative justice schemes ‘facilitate people being intimidated out of their homes or the expulsion of individuals at the behest of paramilitaries’is to slander the various individuals’ and organisations mentioned above and to ridicule work that over the past number of years has proved extremely effective in fulfilling its aims and objectives.
Secondly: Bangor Alternatives do not ‘facilitate people being intimidated out of their homes or the expulsion of individuals at the behest of paramilitaries.’
Within our remit and in accordance with strict legal procedures and agreed protocol, Bangor Alternatives works to avert such occurrences by seeking to initiate crisis intervention and mediation to find a solution that aims to prevent such incidences. Only once every avenue has been exhausted and no way forward can be found, does our service refer the matter to PSNI informing them an agreed resolution could not be found. Based on this information and that given at the initial referral stage, the PSNI make the decision if an individual or property is at risk.
Finally: Bangor Alternatives was instrumental in working with a number of community representatives to draw up a set of protocols on flags and bonfires which proved extremely effective for a number of years and only recently was used with a positive outcome in Holywood.
To suggest there is a lack of multi-agency working to address the issues their report highlights, is untrue.
Any of the report consultants or local Councillors who wish to speak with Alternatives on any of these matters are welcome to contact us.