In this monograph, the author argues for the integration of the concept of forgiveness into criminal law through incorporating restorative justice practices such as victim-offender mediation. Although forgiveness is not a purpose in itself nor can it be enforced, criminal law should provide room for forgiveness. Contrary to retribution, in the sense of channelled revenge, forgiveness has, after all, proven its practical usefulness in conflict resolution and in paving the way for reconciliation. The author contends that it is about time that criminal law is aimed at peace-making. This will inevitably entail significant changes to substantive and procedural criminal law. Ultimately, morality, law and politics should focus on achieving a harmonious, peaceful and, wherever possible, non-violent society. Civilisation is about more than merely substituting unbridled revenge by channelled revenge (retribution). The ideals glimmering on the horizon are repaying evil with goodness, restoration and forgiveness.
This monograph discusses the views of several ethicists, philosophers, theologians, psychologists and legal scholars and seeks to provide answers to the following questions: what is forgiveness? How is it brought about? Are retribution and forgiveness each other's opposites? Why is forgiveness important? Which view of mankind does it reflect? Does forgiveness belong to the public domain? How can it be shaped to fit into the criminal justice system? And what role does restorative justice play in this regard?
Dr. Jacques Claessen (Maastricht, 1980) is an Associate Professor of Criminal Law at the Department of Criminal law and Criminology of the Faculty of Law at Maastricht University and serves as a substitute judge at the Limburg District Court in Maastricht, the Netherlands. In 2012, he was awarded with the very first Bianchi Restorative Justice Prize.
Forewords by dr. John Blad, former Associate Professor of Criminal Law at the Faculty of Law of Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Nico Tydeman, Zen teacher and spiritual leader of the Amsterdam Zen Centre.