Article 40 © copyright to the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape

Assessment of North West Training

Inspector Mooki of the Rustenburg Police Station relates his experiences of the training and how he has used it in his work:

A workshop that was conducted in Rustenburg from October to May on Child Justice Reception Arrest and Referral Centres, and Restorative Justice, was one of the best workshops I have attended. Although different trainers conducted it, they all did so in a professional and understandable manner. There were lots of group discussions, which made it easier to understand the topics.

In as far as I am concerned, this workshop has assisted us a lot in rendering an efficient service especially to the child offenders. Emphasis was put on the manner in which child offenders have to be dealt with during arrest, referral and reception. There is a belief that child offenders can be reformed. Therefore they must be given a chance to reform and be taught to account for and rectify their mistakes.

The concept of restorative justice also plays a vital role. The family conference group plays a significant role in uniting two broken families. In my area (Vryburg) two cases were referred for family group conferencing on different occasions.

The first case was one of culpable homicide. The accused person was a girl of about 16 years. Although it was not easy to bring the two families together to discuss the matter, eventually we succeeded in holding a family group conference. The bereaved family did not want to co-operate in the first place. Only after we had explained the purpose of the meeting did they agree to be part of the discussion. It was the first time that we conducted this type of conference and we found that it was a delicate situation to handle.

The second case that was referred to this conferencing procedure was that of an attempted murder. Two white guys shot a coloured guy with a pellet gun. Initially in this case, the family of the victim was very angry. However they did not give us any problems and attended the conference. They claimed that the suspects had acted in that way towards their child because they, the accused, were white. The attorney for the accused was also present at the family group conference. Before we started I met with him alone and he told me that it was the first time that he was attending this kind of procedure. I informed him of the purpose of the family group conference and also requested him to allow the two families to discuss the matter themselves. I told him that I would be managing the conference. I was fortunate because the attorney was so co-operative and did not give me any problems, even though he attended the family conference as an observer.

I was so delighted at the end of the conference. The two families were really united. They stood in groups, shaking hands and showed a spirit of reconciliation. I realized that the family group conference workshops should also be conducted with the community. The Justice Department personnel must also be engaged with about this concept in all the areas in the country. They are the people who can make this procedure work effectively.