Although some may argue that there are differences on points of detail, variations of restorative justice include sentencing circles, consultation circle and victim-offender mediation.
Zernova wrote, in her treatise on topic, that restorative justice is a:
"... participatory process whereby all people with a stake in a particular offence (victims, offenders and their communities of care) come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future.
"Such process is guided by a set of value: victim healing, offender accountability, individual empowerment, reconciliation, reparation of whatever harm has been caused by the crime, community-orientation, informality, de-professionalization, consensual decision-making and inclusiveness."
In R v Gladue, Canada's Supreme Court wrote:
"The aims of restorative justice ... apply to all offenders, and not only aboriginal offenders. However, most traditional aboriginal conceptions of sentencing place a primary emphasis upon the ideals of restorative justice.....
"In general terms, restorative justice may be described as an approach to remedying crime."
In the context of criminal law, and in the 2000 case of R v Proulx, Justice Lamer of Canada's Supreme Court wrote:
"Restorative justice is concerned with the restoration of the parties that are affected by the commission of an offence. Crime generally affects at least three parties: the victim, the community, and the offender. A restorative justice approach seeks to remedy the adverse effects of crime in a manner that addresses the needs of all parties involved. This is accomplished, in part, through the rehabilitation of the offender, reparations to the victim and to the community, and the promotion of a sense of responsibility in the offender and acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and to the community."
Similarly, in R v Laliberte Justice Vancise of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal wrote, at ¶48:
"Restorative justice has been defined as the creation of a positive environment for change, healing and reconciliation for offenders, victims and communities. It is a condemnation of criminal actions rather than perpetrators and an integration of offenders into the community rather than a stigmatization or marginalization of them. Within this framework the offender is encouraged to accept responsibility and to make reparations to the community. The restorative approach defines crime as a violation of one person by another and focuses on problem solving and the repair of social injury. It is a system in which the community is facilitator, where restoration is used as a means of reconciling the parties, and where the liability to the victim is recognized and redressed."
Restorative justice is a system of dispute resolution apparently taken from, as suggested in Gladue above, some aboriginal justice source.
The considerable disadvantage of restorative justice is that is risk-free for the offender who has nothing to lose in engaging a restorative justice process.
More appropriately, the normal criminal justice system regards the needs of the offender in a secondary fashion only; for example, at sentencing.
Needless to say, where they are guilty or where the evidence is persuasive, offenders ought to seek to resolve criminal charges by means of restorative justice at all opportunities.