In the Introduction the author explains her own interest for researching out-of-court settlement (victim-offender mediation) from the participant’s perspective.
The second chapter titled Restorative justice- the Philosophical and Conceptual Discourse brings explanation of restorative justice (RJ) compared to traditional criminal justice approach. The author discusses restorative justice definitions, term, principles and goals as well as four different restorative justice models (victim-offender mediation, family conference, circles, reparative panels/boards) in the world for youth in conflict with the law. The author concludes that restorative justice is relatively new and substantially different approach toward offenders but also toward crime victims. Restorative justice programs, according to its principles and theories, should lead to numerous benefits for the victim, offender and the community.
Therefore, the following chapter Theoretical Assumptions of Restorative Justice describes and analyses theories of restorative justice regarding expected outcomes and objectives which must be accomplished in the process of out-of-court settlement (OCS) in order to achieve theoretical goals and outcomes. Analysed theories are: Theory on Healing Justice, Theory on Healing Dialogue, Theory of Social and Moral Development, Neutralisation Theory, Theory of Apology and Procedural Justice Theory. The author offers logical model of out-of-court settlement based on its process, theories, and results. In order to achieve restorative justice outcomes, every segment must be in accordance with other elements as well as theoretical postulates.
In the fourth chapter the author gives an overview, describes, sums up and discusses foreign studies of restorative justice on specific aspects of restorative justice programs from the perspective of victims and offenders.
In the chapter Out-of-court Settlement in Croatia the author brings basic information (development of the model in Croatia, characteristics of the model, legal framework of the model, criterion for imposement, process of the model, statistical data on OCS in Croatia, conducted studies on the efficiency of OCS so far) on Croatian restorative justice model which is the only RJ program in the criminal justice system in Croatia. OCS is victim- offender mediation programme focused on the joint victim and offender meeting who voluntarily, under the guidance of specially educated mediator, talk about aftermath of crime as well as possible ways to repair, restore or compensate the damage caused by the offense. The solution and agreement must be acceptable to both parties.
In the chapter titled Study Problem, Purpose and Aims the author states that the biggest difference between RJ approach (and OCS) and existing system of social reactions to crime lies in completely different role of the victim and offender. Despite the fact that relatively solid fond of studies exists which aimed at exploring perspectives of victims and offenders and their experiences with RJ, the fact is that they used different methodologies. Therefore, it is hard to compare or generalize the researches results. In addition, there are even contradictory study results present. Various victim-offender mediation programs are conducted differently in practice which is also one important aspect when interpreting results. Besides that, perspective of OCS participants in Croatia has not been explored so far.
Despite the fact that large number of restorative justice studies in the world brings evidence on different benefits of restorative justice programs for its participants, Croatian model is checked in relation to only some aspect of its effectiveness so far while participants (victim's and offender's) experiences with out-of-court settlement is not empirically verified. Therefore this research expands the current knowledge on restorative justice. In addition, it provides an answer to the question what makes out-of-court settlement successful from the victim's and offender’s perspective and how participants experience and interpret the out-of- court settlement process.
This study aimed to explore and describe victims' and offenders’ experiences with OCS and to develop an understanding of the meaning participants attribute to their participation experience. In order to do that, this study examined victims' and offenders’ perspectives of the experiences of the OCS program operating in Zagreb and Osijek using qualitative methodology. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews with 14 crime victims and 17 offenders. Data was analysed using inductive thematic analysis by Braun and Clarke (2006, 2012, 2013).
Findings highlight that victims had positive experiences with OCS which is evident from isolated themes named: OCS brings many benefits for victims, Experience of positive atmosphere, Positive perception of mediator as process “guardian”, Positive perception of the offender, Process leads to the relief for the victims. However, findings also indicated negative cases, which are discussed and reflect disrespect of OCS standards and principles by mediators.
Meanings that victim attach to the experience with OCS is described in two overarching themes called: Satisfaction with the process and OCS outcomes and OCS is sufficient for victims but not for the offenders.
Offenders, as well as victims, have positive experience with OCS. Although their motivation for participation is primary pragmatic accompanied by emotions of fear, discomfort, upon completion of the process they recognize many benefits for themselves and more modest for the victims. OCS is perceived as measure which is better for them than for the crime victims. Victims are perceived better than expected and often oriented toward helping the offenders. The perception of the mediator is positive. Many offenders experience transformation of emotions during the process. This means that the process leads to changes of emotions in most cases (from „negative“- fear, discomfort, embarrassment to a feelings of relief and happiness).
But in spite of the above, disrespect of the principles and standards of OCS conduct by mediator, leads to problems during the joint victim and offender meeting and bring less restorative outcomes than those which in accordance with theories one might expect.
Meanings that offenders attach to the experience with OCS is described in two overarching themes called OCS is oriented toward offenders and OCS is better than court for the offenders.
This study brings forth the detailed stories from an insider’s perspective on restorative justice, helping us to take a closer look at the “black box” of OCS.