Restorative Justice at BeNCH

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Restorative Justice brings together all parties affected by crime. Meetings are held where victims are given the opportunity to explain to an offender how the crime has affected their lives.

Victims can ask the questions that perhaps didn’t get asked or answered in court, with the hope that the offender will understand the impact of their actions and stop them re-offending. To see how Restorative Justice can change lives – read Lisa and Shaun’s story below:

Lisa and Shaun’s story
Shaun* was a prolific burglar and a drug user but ready and willing to examine his criminal behaviour. One of his victims Lisa* agreed to meet with Shaun as part of the Restorative Justice process. She held strident views on punishment and felt Shaun had “got off lightly”.

For their meeting, Shaun had chosen his mother and his drug worker to be present. Shaun started by explaining his actions, thinking and emotional state during the burglary. He was visibly nervous giving this account.

Lisa then explained how the burglary had profoundly affected her and her family. At the time her hands were swollen as she was pregnant and she had taken her rings off. She was saving for a holiday by collecting cash in a tin. Lisa’s comments chastened Shaun and he became very emotional. Shaun’s Probation Officer outlined the requirements of the Community Order and Shaun’s progress. Lisa was surprised at the intensity of the Order and was pleased that he was being assessed at regular intervals by a Crown Court Judge.

Shaun’s mother gave a powerful account of how she tried to steer her son onto the right path but his drug use was out of control. However, the most profound effect on Shaun came from Lisa’s father. He spoke with sincerity saying how sad he was to see such a young articulate man wasting his life. This reduced Shaun to tears which he found hard to control.

After the meeting, Lisa told me she had not previously felt the need for any sort of ‘closure’. She just wanted her perpetrator to know how badly his actions had affected her but she was left feeling relieved and in some way vindicated. Lisa was also comforted by the fact that Shaun was a young man who was vulnerable to the criticism of others, not the demon she had carried around in her imagination.

Shaun was hugely affected by the whole process. The sadness of his mother and the generosity of spirit from Lisa’s father were probably the most powerful influences. He did find life difficult in the period following the meeting. However, one year on Shaun is grateful that he completed the process, is free from drugs and has not offended again. Shaun said that he still looks back upon the meeting as “one of the most worthwhile things he has ever done”.

*Real names have been changed to protect identities

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