From the 6th to the 8th of June 2017, the IJJO co-organised, together with the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the first study visit in Finland of the IJJO led project ‘Implementing Restorative Justice with Child Victims’, financed by the Daphne programme of the European Union.
This project provides an opportunity for mutual learning between six European countries, three of which are already successfully using restorative justice practices with children (the “mentor” partners – Belgium, Finland, and, Northern Ireland), while the other three are in the process of implementing observed restorative practices as part of a monitored pilot project (the “mentee” partners – Bulgaria, France and, Latvia).
The mentor and mentee States are paired in duos, focusing on a specific restorative justice method: Belgium mentors France in the implementation of mediation in serious cases; Finland mentors Bulgaria in the implementation of mediation in less serious cases and; Northern Ireland mentors Latvia in the implementation of conferencing.
Each mentor partner therefore organises a field visit in order to allow for the exchange of good practices, to provide a learning experience and to create a space for synergies and teamwork among the partners. In this context, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) of Finland hosted the first field visit, welcoming in Helsinki all the mentor and mentee partners of the project, who were therefore able to meet for the first time.
On the first day, a general overview of the project and its goals was given by Cédric Foussard, IJJO director of International Affairs, and Aurélie Edjidjimo, IJJO Policy and Project assistant. They emphasised that the project builds on the previous European Research on Restorative Juvenile Justice coordinated by the IJJO, focusing on research which aims to be practical, providing tools to concretely implement good restorative justice practices.
In addition, Aune Flinck and Mari Kaltemaa-Uurtamo of the THL, presented an overview of the system of victim-offender mediation, pointing out that in Finland the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is the one managing guides and monitoring mediation services. Julia Saarholm, mediator, detailed the core values of mediation and explained how victim-offender mediation occurs in practice.
Then, Aarne Kunninen, deputy head of the department of Criminal Policy, gave a presentation on restorative justice and policies in Finland, giving an overview of the juvenile justice system and of the cooperation between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
During the second day, the team visited the central mediation office in Vantaa – the pioneer city of mediation in Finland. Once at the site, mediation officer Tiina Snellman and two mediation advisors explained how mediation was introduced and developed in the 1980s in Finland, and how they recruit and train the volunteer mediators.
Afterwards, a visit was carried out at the centre of Victim Support Finland (RIKU), where Maatu Ariku, coordinator for Web and Youth Services, presented the services the Finnish system put into place to support victims. The day ended at the Children of the Station Association (Aseman Lapset) where the project worker and educator Timo Kyllönen introduced the history and system of Street mediation.
Finally, the last day of the visit - at the office of the THL - was dedicated to the training programme for the mediators with the intervention of Ms. Tuire Laakkio, mediation supervisor and Ms.Ulla Sara-Aho, voluntary mediator.
To conclude this field visit, all partners had the opportunity to present their national desk study on restorative justice, as well as to exchange on the different practices and challenges faced. Moreover, the IJJO presented the next steps of the project, such as the elaboration of a practical guide, the next field visit in Northern Ireland (26-28th of September) and in Belgium (the week of the 6th of November) as well as the setting up of a national coalition in mentee states.