According to Ron Claassen, Director of the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies of the Fresno Pacific University, “Crime is primarily an offense against human relationships, and secondarily a violation of a law (since laws are written to protect safety and fairness in human relationships)” (Claassen, 1996). The concept of “Restorative Justice” is recognized as a process aimed at attending to the needs created by the crime committed, such as protection from further physical, emotional, psychological and social distress.
It is also aimed at attending to the needs that are related to the cause of the offense committed, such as psychological or social distress, addictions, lack of moral or ethical foundation, etc. Restorative Justice recognizes the primary victims of the crime as those most impacted by the offense. It also aims to address the needs of those involved in the crime and, once these needs are satisfied, it looks into the situation for opportunities to “restore” the offender into being a productive, inoffensive, undisruptive and undamaging member of the community.
This goal of rehabilitating the offender is viewed as necessary so as not to deny that person his right to redemption. This, of course, is a complicated matter as those most impacted by the crime committed are often difficult to convince to “forgive and forget” the offense committed. Another difficulty is acquiring the full voluntary cooperation of both the aggrieved and the offending parties in the process of rehabilitating relationships and individuals damaged by the committed offense.
The experience narrated by Ingrid Poulson during the interview with Andrew Denton on Enough Rope suggests the existence of a huge gap in the implementation of the concept of Restorative Justice in the Australian Criminal Justice System. This gap pertains to the inability of the police to properly respond to and address the domestic violence incidents reported by Ingrid and her father, thereby allowing these incidents to escalate resulting in the murder.
What was ideally handled in a manner that could have fostered with enough care to protect both the victims and the offender led to the grisly deaths of Ingrid’s children, Marlee and Bas, and father, Pete. The incident wherein Ingrid and her father was interviewed by the responding police officers following the reported AVO breach shows that somehow the police had not been trained to address such incident, given the manner by which they handled the situation. They did not get any official statement from the aggrieved party and have, instead, convinced Ingrid to “informally” warn her husband, Neung, that his offense could bring him to jail.
The effect, as recollected by Ingrid, somehow showed that Neung had not taken the situation seriously and so he repeated the offense just two weeks later. Ingrid and her family had not been given the police protection they had deserved following their reports of disturbance to the police. They had not been given due consideration for the distress caused by her estranged husband. Meanwhile, while the police initially had shown some concern for the welfare of the offender, Neung, no follow up was made to ensure that he was psychologically and socially sound enough to heed to law, especially that which pertained to the AVO issued.
As Ingrid and her mother recalled, the police did not even take a second look into the reported AVO breaches committed by Neung, allowing him to think that his disregard for the law was acceptable. In essence, the rights of both victims and offender had not been served by the police because of the way the situation had been handled. Ingrid’s mother, Janice, had insinuated that the police have begun “covering up” the mess in handling Ingrid’s domestic violence case suggesting that the police involved had been receiving punishments rather than being educated to prevent such malpractice from happening in the future.
Ingrid’s drive to have these police officers educated in terms of handling domestic violence issues has reportedly resulted in positive acceptance by the community and possibly a review of the system that carries out Restorative Justice to those who commit such acts. The changes in the laws covering the issuance and implementation of the AVOs indicate that the Criminal Justice System courts have given this particular case due notice and consideration, allowing Ingrid and her family to feel that their advocacy for change in the system has been heard by those in authority.
The initial response of the police, right from the very first reported incident of domestic violence, should have been investigative in nature thereby uncovering the underlying causes of the disturbance as well as the needs of the aggrieved and offending parties. The victim recalled not getting any support whatsoever from the police when they were called into the scene. She also recalled that they had been more concerned that her husband had tried to hurt himself, disregarding the distress shown by her children.
The police should have followed protocol, especially since children were involved, and called in child welfare specialists to help debrief the children about the incident that had transpired. The police officers, on the other hand, need to be trained and educated for their shortcomings in these matters reflect greatly on the system as well as their capacity to uphold the law. They become victims in the sense that they are caught unaware of how they should have acted in these situations, damaging their reputation in society and allowing the system to be corrupted by those who think they can get away with it.
Reviewing the system which trains and educates the police force in handling domestic violence cases, such as that of Ingrid Poulson’s, requires that the mindset be adjusted in terms of seeing the value in responding to the incident following a set of protocol that gives high regard to the needs of both parties. A well-documented and evidence-based approach to identifying the environmental, social, psychological, physical and medical needs of those involved should be taken into consideration, thereby allowing for the police to act upon those needs in a timely fashion.
In the case of Ingrid Poulson and her family, other such specialists, like social services and psychologists, could have easily been involved to address her need for protection and assurance that the situation was being handled with care given the volatile behavior of her estranged husband. References: Agency, N. P. (2007). Road Death Investigation Manual. Retrieved May 7, 2010, from Association of Chief Police Officers: http://www. acpo. police. uk/asp/policies/Data/road_death_investigation_manual_18x12x07. pdf Australian Institute of Criminology (2009). Criminal Justice System.
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