Justice restored

Scales of Justice

Posted on: 8 September 2015

Anyone who’s ever been the victim of a crime, no matter how small it is perceived to be, will know that it’s not simply the immediate effects of the crime itself that are felt.  The impact can last for days, months and years, and can affect people far beyond the immediate victims, and manifest itself in many ways.

Often the judicial process can be lengthy and complex, and even if the perpetrator is convicted, it does not always lead to a satisfactory conclusion for the victim, who often has many questions that remain unanswered.

There is now an opportunity for people who have been the victims of crime to access a restorative justice process that would give the opportunity to come face to face, or, if they’d prefer, correspond, with the perpetrator, and to seek the closure they often need to be able to move on with their lives, by asking the questions that remain unanswered about the crime.

Restorative justice creates opportunities for people affected by crime, conflict, anti-social behaviour or the harmful actions of others to come together with the person responsible, and seek answers to their questions and explain the impact the incident had on them.

The process helps everyone move on.  It gives those who accept responsibility for the incident an insight into the impact of their behaviour, and creates opportunities to find ways in which they can make amends. 

Alison and her husband were burgled while they were away for the weekend.

“Although there was nothing particularly unusual about the burglary, when we got back we realised that things were just not in the right place,” she said.

“We went in to the living room to find our belongings spread across the floor, a broken window at the back of the house and clearly some of our things were missing. We did all the things that we should have done, contacted the Police, fixed the window, filled out the insurance claim, bought a burglar alarm, thought bad thoughts about the burglar and got on with our lives.  This is the same story as thousands of others. We were both capable people and expected simply to move on; we had busy lives and thought we would put it behind us.

However, the impact of the burglary lasted much longer than either of them could have expected.

“My husband considered himself to be the person who kept the household safe,” Alison continued.  “He could not get to grips with having failed in that role. Several times a week one of us would get up in the night because we thought we had heard something. We went over it again and again, unclear why all our photographs had been emptied all over the floor and why my husband’s glasses, left by the side of the bed, had been bent in two. We had so many questions about why someone would do such a thing to us.  Had we been targeted? What was it about our house that had made him choose us? It affected our lives a great deal and whilst we did not move for another five years, neither of us ever felt safe in the house again.”

Alison says the opportunity to have some restorative justice with the person who broke into their house was not something that had been considered at that stage. However, in retrospect, it would have helped both of them come to terms with what had happened.

“To be able to talk to the person who took things from our home and ask them why would, I think, have really helped both of us to understand what had happened and to move on,” said Alison.

“I hope that explaining the impact on us might also have helped them have a clearer understanding of the impact of their actions that went way beyond the financial implications that were, in the end, relatively minor.”

Everyone taking part will be supported throughout the process by one of the trained independent professionals located across Devon, who will meet with the parties involved to talk about what happened and the effect it had on them, and if both parties want to meet, this will be arranged; or if not an alternative found, such as a letter exchange or recorded meetings.

If a meeting is possible, a suitable and neutral venue for this to take place will be found, and the professional will guide the meeting to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their say.  Both parties can bring a friend, family member or advocate with them, and everyone involved will be part of the planning process.

Anyone in Devon who has been a victim of a crime, and who thinks that a restorative justice process would benefit them can contact Community Solutions on 01752 304136; e-mail RJ@plymouth.gcsx.gov.uk or use Twitter @DevonRJustice. 

Restorative justice is funded through the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Posted in: Community | Health and Wellbeing