Over the last decade, DA has been treated seriously by the Criminal Justice System. Nevertheless, current strategies and laws are arguably not achieving the success that legislators and practitioners had hoped. Many have questioned the effectiveness of RJ in particular for serious crimes with some advocating that RJ should only be utilised for minor offences. This includes the Police who act as gatekeepers regarding selection of offences deemed appropriate for RJ. However as RJ theory and practice continues, and as evaluation studies arguably support its continued use (Roberts, 2010), RJ may be a strategy that should be adopted by the CJS for some offences of DA if the victim desires this approach.
RJ consists of several key concepts, principally, that the crime is viewed as a violation of the individual rather than merely an offence against the State. Secondly, that the individual victim is not only affected by the impact of the crime but the victim’s immediate family inevitably feels secondary victimisation (National Commission on Restorative Justice, 2009). Therefore advocates of RJ assert the humanitarian aspect of this approach empowers victims, is a more respectful, effective method to process crimes, and one that focuses on repairing harm, reducing re-offending, and is therefore ultimately superior than more conventional approaches (Latimer, Dowden, & Muise, 2005).This research study has several inter-related objectives.
A primary objective of this study is the exploration of victim’s perceptions in relation to the utilisation of RJ within the DA arena. Maxwell (2005) explains that the research question, the participants and methods to maximise ecological validity, will direct the selection of the most appropriate research methods.
For this study to be effective, a collection of descriptive, textual information will be collected in order to discover concepts, understand meanings and examine thoughts.
As Marshall and Rossman (2006:55) argue: The most compelling argument [for qualitative research] emphasises the unique strengths of the genre for research that is exploratory [...] that accepts value of context and setting, and searches for a deeper understanding of the participants’ lived experiences of the phenomenon under study.
Therefore, a qualitative approach will be adopted in this study, and in-depth, face-to-face, 50 semi-structured interviews with victims of DA are an appropriate method to collect rich data for this project.