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Tijdschrift Tijdschrift voor Veiligheid x Jaar 2013 x
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Legitimiteit via procedurele rechtvaardigheid: kunnen herstelrechtelijke praktijken de maatschappelijke legitimiteit van het strafrecht verhogen?

Tijdschrift Tijdschrift voor Veiligheid, Aflevering 2 2013
Trefwoorden procedural justice, legitimacy,, restorative justice, mediation,, perceptions of fairness
Auteurs Vicky De Mesmaecker
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Contemporary scholarly literature is full of references to the crisis of the criminal justice system. The general public seems to increasingly lose confidence in the criminal justice system and its actors. In this article we look into the potential manners in which restorative justice practices can enhance the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. Our analysis is based on the observation that by actively engaging victims and defendants in the resolution of their conflict, restorative practices seem to accommodate a necessary condition of procedural fairness. Since research on procedural justice and legitimacy in turn suggests that the legitimacy of the criminal justice system is based largely upon its perceived procedural fairness, we investigate whether participation in restorative practices improves perceptions of the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. To that end we describe the results of a qualitative study on the experiences of victims and defendants who participated in victim-offender mediation in Belgium. Relating their experiences to the antecedents of procedural justice as described in the literature, we find that restorative practices in different ways enhance perceptions of procedural fairness. Yet these perceptions do not necessarily reflect on the criminal justice system. Our analysis suggests that the degree to which the perceptions of procedural fairness resulting from participation in a restorative practice influence an individual’s perceptions of the legitimacy of the criminal justice system depends on whether the restorative practice is seen as an integral part of the criminal proceedings. We found, for example, that this is more likely to be the case if the judge at trial formally acknowledges the parties’ participation in mediation. We conclude that more research on the degree to which people perceive the restorative practice to be a part of the criminal proceedings is needed in order to further flesh out this issue.


Vicky De Mesmaecker
Dr. Vicky De Mesmaecker is vrijwillig wetenschappelijk medewerker aan het Leuvens Instituut voor Criminologie (LINC, KULeuven) en Visiting Researcher aan Yale Law School. Email: vicky.demesmaecker@law.kuleuven.be
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