ADR has advanced in the criminal context from earlier `informal justice programs’ to the notable dominant forms we have today. These dominant forms of ADR include Victim–Offender Mediation Programs, focused on restitution and reconciliation of crime related offenders through one to one meetings between victims and offenders before trained mediators[1].  The Victim-Offender Mediation Program also addresses crimes, such as vandalism and burglary, but has as well been used to address complex criminal matters such as negligent homicide, armed robbery and rape.[2]

Quite a number of  criminal ADR have developed, such as victim-offender panels, victim assistance panels, community crime prevention programs, sentencing circles, ex-offender assistance, community service and specialist courts; these ad hoc programs are available to give the victim a voice, one which has been helpful to the offender, in the sense it enables the offender state their own side of the story. Understandably, giving reasons for actions carried out, and at the same time acting as an assistance mechanism in the healing process[3] .

With the evolution of ADR came the restructure of criminal law, this became imminent when society began to prefer ADR to court processes.  The objective of reconstructing criminal law was to adopt a more ` philosophical and political paradigm’ which shapes and legitimises some aspects of law operations, such approach is seen in the treatment of sexual offences such as rape.[4] ADR advocates at some point the appreciation of  the progress of  criminal law in the way it assists offenders, and the platform for change which ADR advocates. The  growth of ADR has simply been  because these processes are dealt with from the perspective of the institution.

Presumably the presentation of alternatives told from a different angle, such as the accused persons, helps illustrate the issues properly and gives the person a reason to hope for better or more so become a better person.[5] Sometimes, this can prove difficult because of the flexibility evident in ADR as opposed to criminal law, which more often than not is usually handled by the criminal court which obviously is strict and firm in the execution of its duties.

The issue of conflict resolution using ADR process is an area the Ford Foundation developed, a pioneer programme in the late 70’s dealing with complex public policy disputes, regulatory disputes, which was simply ways of handling matters outside the conventional methods.[6] This illustrates the power of ADR, the ability to stretch beyond the norm and still stay true to its  form. Therefore,  ADR has the potential to deal with a matter within the criminal context, without altering the essence of the justice.

[1] Maggie Grace `Criminal Alternative Dispute Resolution: Restoring Justice, Respecting responsibility, and Renewing Public Norms’ 2010 Vermont Law Review = 1524762  accessed 20 April 2012

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Nicola Lacey,Celia Wells & Dirk Meure, `Reconstructing Criminal Law’ [992] Vol 55 Modern Law Review   140

[5] Ibid 140

[6] Mauro Cappelletti `Alternative Dispute Resolution Processes within the Framework of the World-Wide Access –to-Justice Movement’ 1993 Vol 56  Modern Law Review 283