International RJ Week 2021
This year as part of International Restorative Justice Week (21st - 28th November) "Gemma" and "Tim"* have shared their experiences of taking part in restorative justice after Tim burgled Gemma's home while she was inside.
*not their real names
Our home was burgled whilst I was in the kitchen. I didn’t even realise that there was someone inside until after he’d left. I was most distressed that he’d taken a rucksack belonging to my son. It had all his favourite things in ready for a sleepover with his Grandparents. Because it happened in the day I didn’t feel particularly unsafe, but the children were wobbled by it, particularly my son.
I was happy to participate in RJ when I was asked. The facilitators were very considerate and explained everything meticulously. I was slightly apprehensive about meeting in person but wanted to be able to help as I knew how beneficial the process might be for both parties. I felt really well briefed by the facilitators in advance.
On the day I thought it went very well and it was organised superbly. My husband also came along and I was grateful to have his support there. It was useful to meet Tim* (the harmer), to understand his story and motivation behind what happened and I was impressed that he voluntarily apologised for his actions.
Both my husband I almost instantly warmed to Tim when he arrived and we ‘got him’ pretty much immediately. We could see that he was genuinely sorry which meant a lot. We came away feeling grateful the meeting could take place and hopeful for his future.
The whole process was great. As the ‘victim’ it was excellent to have the choice to meet in person or write a letter instead for example. I was also constantly reassured that it was OK to pull out at any time.
I would say it’s really helped. It felt amazing to be able to ask the niggling questions at the back of my mind about the burglary and have them answered. It was a brilliant and very worthwhile process which I’d highly recommend.
I got carried away and did a silly thing really, that’s all I can say. I shouldn’t have done it. The front door was open, so I took the opportunity of going in the house and looking for stuff. I took a bag and as soon as I realised it had kid’s stuff in, I put it in an alleyway near the house hoping they’d find it and luckily they did.
At the time I was a bit depressed because my grandparents were both in hospital with dementia and my mum was unwell. There was a lot going on. I was also using drugs here and there and I was under the influence when I did the burglary.
At court I pled guilty straightaway and was sentenced to three years in prison. I was there during the first lockdown, so I spent a lot of time in my cell which was quite hard and messed with my mental health.
I’d already heard about Restorative Justice in the past – when I was in prison for an earlier offence a victim came and spoke about his experience, so I was really interested in it. That’s why I chose to come forward and ask for it. I knew it was a good opportunity for me to hear about the impact I’d had on Gemma and her family.
The meeting itself was nerve-wracking and walking into the room and seeing them for the first time was the hardest part of the whole thing. I thought there might be a bit of shouting and ranting and raving but there wasn’t, and I was grateful for that. Hearing from them made me more aware of what I’d done. They said they forgave me which I wasn’t expecting. It actually made me feel a bit tearful.
Afterwards I felt really sorry about it, but I was also grateful that they were overcoming it. I felt more at ease because by taking part in RJ I’d done something positive, even though it was quite difficult. My mum was really proud of me for taking part as well.
Looking back on it now it was a really positive experience and I’m glad I did it. I think RJ is really useful and being able to understand both sides is important. Without RJ I think I’d still be carrying what I did with me, but it’s helped to give me some closure and move forward with my life. I’m now in temporary work and haven’t re-offended since.