The Leuven Declaration

on the Advisability of Promoting the Restorative Approach to Juvenile Crime
made on the occasion of the first International Conference on Restorative
Justice for Juveniles -- Potentialities, Risks and Problems for Research

Leuven, Belgium
May 12-14, 1997 (Taken from an e-mail of John Wilmerding on 7/10/97)


This declaration has been accepted on May 13th, 1997 by the participants in the business meeting of the International Network for Research on Restorative Justice for Juveniles, which includes the following prominent scholars and practitioners: Gordon Bazemore, John Braithwaite, Ezzat Fattah, Uberto Gatti, Susan Guarino-Ghezzi, Russ Immarigeon, Janet Jackson, Hans-Juergen Kerner, Rob MacKay, Paul McCold, Mara Schiff, Klaus Sessar, Jean TrÈpanier, Mark Umbreit, Peter van der Laan, Daniel Van Ness, Ann Warner-Roberts, Elmar Weitekamp, Martin Wright, and Lode Walgrave.

In spite of differences in approach and in emphasis, the participants agreed that the text can be considered as a common ground for further elaboration.

The same declaration was discussed at the closing session of the Conference on Restorative Justice for Juveniles. Potentialities, Risks and Problems for Research, Leuven (Belgium), May 14th, 1997.

The main points of discussion were:

* whether restorative justice is to be advanced as a form of diversion from the traditional justice system or as a fully fledged alternative aimed at replacing this system

* whether also some kinds of imposed sanctions can be considered as a part of restorative justice

* whether the concept of restorative justice also include the justice system

* how the relation is between restoration and rehabilitation of the offender

* whether the same propositions could be advanced for adults also.


The aim of this public statement is

(1) to emphasize the belief of a substantial part of the scientific world in the potential of restorative justice for offering a constructive response to crime,

(2) to encourage political leaders and governmental officials to inform themselves thoroughly about the concept of restorative justice and necessary system changes required to implement the concept properly,

(3) to stimulate legal authorities to widen the opportunities for implementing restorative responses to crime, to promote experimentation with new goals and forms of restorative responses to crime, and to encourage policy debate and scientific research.

The declaration takes into consideration several international conventions, rules and recommendations issued in recent years by international bodies, in particular the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Bejing Rules, 1985), the United Nations Declaration of basic principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (1985), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the United Nations Minimum Rules for the Protection of Minors Deprived of their Liberty (1990), the Recommendations of the Council of Europe on the Position of the Victim in the Framework of Criminal Law and Procedures (R85/11, 1985), with regard to the Social Reactions to Juvenile Crime (R 87/20, 1987) and on Assistance to Victims and the Prevention of Victimisation (R87/21, 1987), and the European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes (1984). The declaration is based especially upon the growing amount of practical experience and scientific research, commented and published in many countries, of which an important part, especially concerning juveniles, has been presented and discussed at the first International Conference on Restorative Justice for Juveniles, Leuven, May 12-14th, 1997.

The Potential

  1. All over the world, initiatives are being taken that can be covered by the term 'restorative justice'. They lead to an increasing belief of many scientific scholars that restorative justice can evolve towards being a serious alternative in responding to crime. The aim of the restorative approach is to restore the harm done to victims and to contribute to peace in the community and safety in society. To achieve this, a process is set up whereby "all parties with a stake in a specific offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the after- math of the offence and its implications for the future" (Tony Marshall).
  2. The initial success of the approach as documented by scien- tific research has led to a growing confidence in its potential. The great majority of the restorative obligations are well accomplished by the offenders. Most participating victims experience a greater degree of satisfaction than those who are involved in more traditional judicial procedures. Offenders generally have less difficulty in understanding the restorative obligations than they have with regard to the punitive or rehabilitative responses. Outcomes in terms of recidivism seem to be positive, though further research is needed to establish this more firmly. When informed realistically about its possibilities, the majority of the public appears to prefer restorative responses to crime.
  3. No decisive limits concerning the feasibility of restorative justice have yet been observed. Many victims of serious offences are also willing to cooperate in restorative processes. Serious offenders can and regularly do comply with restorative obliga- tions. No more threats to public safety have been observed as a result of the restorative experiments than have been caused by any other traditional sanctions or measures.
  4. The restorative response to crime is based on a socio-ethical approach which stresses the responsibilities of the parties to find a constructive solution to the crime conflict. The approach therefore offers the potential for more peacekeeping in society as a whole.
  5. Optimism concerning initial restorative responses to crime leads to a more general concept of restorative justice. The wider potentialities of restorative justice appear to be very promising though more research is needed to further explore these poten tialities.
  6. Given that much of the experimentation has been carried out with juveniles and given that public opinion as well as legal authorities generally accept more openness in their reaction to juvenile offending, the following propositions are advanced for the restorative response to juvenile offending.

Ten Propositions



(1.1) Crime should not be considered as a transgression of a
public rule or as an infringement of an abstract juridico-
moral order, but should -- in the first place -- be dealt
with as a harm done to victims, a threat to peace and
safety in community and a challenge for public order in

(1.2) Reactions to crime should contribute towards the decrease
of this harm, threats and challenges. The purely retribu-
tive response to crime not only increases the total amount
of suffering in society, but is also insufficient to meet
victims needs, promotes conflict in community, and seldom
promotes public safety. The tendency towards more punitive
responses to juvenile crime is therefore counter-

(1.3) Reactions to crime should consider in full the account-
ability of the offender, including his obligation to
contribute to the restoration of the harm and peace, and
his entitlement to enjoy all rights to which all members of
the society are entitled. A purely rehabilitative response
is often not advisable as it can circumvent the possible
accountability of the offender and it may not offer an
adequate framework for legal safeguards. It is therefore
important that the rehabilitative approach to offenders is
voluntary and not judicially enforced.


(2.1) The main function of social reaction to crime is not to
punish, but to contribute to conditions that promote
restoration of the harm caused by the offence. It is
therefore called restorative justice.

(2.2) All kinds of harm are susceptible to restoration, including
the material, physical, psychological, and relational
injuries to individual victims, losses in the quality of
relational and social life in the community and declines in
the public order in society.

  1. The role of public authorities in the reaction to an offence needs to be limited to

(3.1) contributing to the conditions for restorative responses
to crime,

(3.2) safeguarding the correctness of procedures and the respect
for individual legal rights,

(3.3) imposing judicial coercion, in situations where voluntary restorative actions do not succeed and a response to the
crime is considered to be necessary,

(3.4) organising judicial procedures in situations where the
crime and the public reactions to it are of such a nature
that a purely informal voluntary regulation appears


(4.1) The victim has the right to freely choose whether or not to
participate in a restorative justice process. The possi-
bility of such a process should always be offered to him or
her in a realistic way. If the victim accepts, he or she
should have the opportunity to express completely his or
her grievances and to make the full account of any injuries
and losses sustained. A refusal to cooperate should not
hamper the victims possibility for indemnity through
judicial procedures.

(4.2) The offender cannot be involved in any voluntary
restorative process unless he or she freely accepts the
accountability for the harm caused by the offence..

(4.3) If the victim refuses to cooperate in a restorative
process, the offender should nevertheless in the first
place be involved in some form of restorative responses,
such as contributions to victim-funds and/or community

(4.4) The realisation of a restorative process with the
particular victim may not complete the restorative
reaction, if the community itself is a party concerned.
The offender may be obliged to complete a community
service, functioning as a symbolic or actual restoration
of the harm done to community.


(5.1) Within the rules of due process and proportionality and in
so far it does not obstruct the restorative response
itself, the action towards young offenders should maximally
contribute to competency building and reintegration.

(5.2) The implementation of a restorative process, whether from
within or without the judicial system, should not limit the
availability of voluntary treatment, assistance and support
to the juvenile offender and/or his family from agencies
operating outside the judicial system.


If concerns for public safety are judged to necessitate the incapacitation of an offender, the offender should nevertheless
be stimulated to undertake restorative actions from within his or
her place of confinement. These actions can take the form of
offering apologies, participating in a mediation programme,
and/or accomplishing services to the benefit of the victim, a
victim-fund or the community.


(7.1) Every public coercive intervention, whether or not it is
aimed at restorative goals, should only be taken by a
judicial instance, according to clear procedural rules.

(7.2) The outcome of any restorative process should not trans-
gress a maximum which should be in proportion to the
seriousness of the harm that has been caused and to the
responsibility and the capacities of the offender.


Authorities should make serious efforts to facilitate restorative
responses to juvenile crime. These include

(8.1) remodelling the juvenile justice system in order to enhance
the opportunities for restorative responses in and outside
the system,

(8.2) providing the necessary agencies in communities which are
equipped to carry out these actions,

(8.3) promoting the development of adequate methodologies for
sound implementation of restorative processes,

(8.4) creating opportunities for education and training of staff
who will be responsible for implementing restorative

(8.5) promoting scientific research and reflection on restorative
justice issues.

  1. In concert with practitioners, scientific research on restorative justice has to

(9.1) provide scientific feedback on the processes and outcomes
of ongoing experiments and practices, and to make
suggestions for new experiments,

(9.2) construct theories which can lead to deeper insight into
the ongoing processes, collate the separate practices into
a coherent framework, and increase the innovative appeal of
the restorative approach,

(9.3) contribute to the development of adequate methodologies for
implementation of the restorative processes,

(9.4) investigate the cultural and structural contexts currently
operating in the judicial system, the community and in
society, which together determine the existing opportuni-
ties for restorative justice, and to reflect upon possible
ways of improving this,

(9.5) develop reflection on the socio-ethical basis of
restorative justice,

(9.6) examine the legal context of restorative justice and to
make clear the extent to which legal safeguards are

  1. Although the propositions advanced above focus primarily on responses to juvenile offending only, similar considerations may very well apply to adult offending as well.

For more information:

Lode Walgrave
Hooverplein 10
B-3000 Leuven
Tel. 32-16-32 52 74
Fax 32-16-32 54 68