PCC hears from burglary victim how Restorative Justice gave her closure
Ahead of this year’s International Restorative Justice (RJ) Week (16-23 Nov), Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, explains why she supports the benefits of communication between victims and offenders. She also hears from a burglary victim on how the RJ process has helped her and her family move on with their lives.
Mrs Bourne said: “Quite simply, RJ puts victims of crime in the driving seat. It is a powerful and effective approach which focuses on how to repair the harm done by crime. For some victims the existing criminal justice process is sufficient whilst for others it leaves them feeling frustrated with many unanswered questions. RJ can rectify this and places the victim at the centre of the process addressing their individual needs. It also has the potential to break the destructive pattern of offending behaviour, which is good for the tax-payer given the overall high cost of crime to criminal justice agencies and society.
“I’ve spoken to victims and heard first-hand about their frustrations of having so many unanswered questions like, for example, why they were targeted in the first place; the long-term effects the crime has had on them, their family and friends and when they have not given evidence in court they feel their voice has been forgotten. For some victims just being able to look into the eyes of their offender and hear from them first-hand why they carried out the offence, can be enough for them to feel empowered and move on with their lives.
“As a strong advocate of RJ and Chair of the Sussex Criminal Justice Board, I was delighted when my office received funding from the Ministry of Justice to help increase the capacity and capability of RJ services for victims of crime in Sussex. Since March 2013, twenty partner organisations are now working together as part of the Sussex Restorative Justice Partnership. This is promising news for victims of crime in Sussex.”
“In 2008 our home in Pavilion Road, Worthing was burgled, it happened in the afternoon and the house was empty.
“The offender took the contents of our safe. This included a large quantity of inherited jewellery and valuables, my own jewellery, family medals also all our legal documents (Birth, Marriage, Death, O’level, GCSE, A-Level and Degree Certificates, Passports, Driving Licenses, House Deeds etc.) In fact he took most of our family history.
“Just before Christmas last year I received a letter from Victim Support asking if I was interested in Restorative Justice. This was followed up with a phone call, I asked for time to think.
“We had a family discussion, my husband wasn’t interested, but I decided to find out more.
“A Victim Support volunteer and a Probation Officer and I met for a coffee. They were wonderful. They explained the procedure, answered all questions and reassured me I could pull out at any time. Their support gave me the confidence to continue.
“We met a few more times while they organised the RJ meeting and dealt with the legalities and paperwork. I was allowed to have a friend accompany me and in April this year we met at Lewes Prison.
“I was extremely nervous before he came into the room. The meeting was run very professionally by the facilitators. The offender spoke first and expressed how sorry he was and how he wished to reform. I had my turn and went through all the things he had taken saying why the things were special and irreplaceable. He looked visibly shaken. He had never met any of his victims before.
“It felt really good to tell him face to face what he had done to us and to see that he seemed genuinely remorseful. I have since heard that he has continued to work towards reforming himself and preparing for his release.
“I will never see any of my possessions again but I am so thankful to the RJ process and the people who gave me a voice.”
For information on how to access RJ services in Sussex please visit the SRJP website: http://www.sussexcriminaljusticeboard.org.uk/sussex-restorative-justice-partnership
For further general information about RJ please visit the MoJ website: http://www.justice.gov.uk/victims-and-witnesses/restorativejustice