Restorative justice works for North Wales family

RJ facilitator Peter SalamiA north Wales family say a ‘weight had been lifted’ off their shoulders after meeting the person who burgled their home.

The Smith* family were out when their home was ransacked, and jewellery and money stolen from the property.

The offender was caught, and the crime left the whole family extremely shaken. But in an attempt to overcome their experience, they were approached to take part in restorative justice as part of the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company’s (Wales CRC) service to reduce reoffending and protect the public.

Husband Dennis* said: “I was on a late shift and my wife had taken our son swimming. When she got back, she saw the bedroom in a tip and rang me to blame me. I’d tidied up before I went to work so I knew something was wrong. I came home from work and found that someone had been in and taken a lot of jewellery and some cash.

“Words can’t explain how we felt. It was just all very surreal. It definitely affected us. Everything goes through your head. Were we targeted? Is it someone we know?

Restorative justice can take many forms, including through a ‘conference’, which sees victims come face to face with the perpetrators. Dennis and his wife worked with the CRC’s restorative justice facilitator Peter Salami to take the necessary steps to meet the person who had burgled their home.

Dennis added: “I thought it (restorative justice) might be a load of rubbish, but Peter won me around and we said that we’d take it one step at a time.

“At first I wanted to kill him, but after the meeting I wanted to be friends with him.

“We asked lots of questions – basically asking why he did what he did. We wanted to get our point of view across, to tell him the truth about how it affected us. We slept with the downstairs light on for the first eight months. I’ve had counselling and suffered quite badly as a result of what he did, so I was feeling quite angry. I did us the world of good.

“He’s either an actor or he was very remorseful. I gave him a hug at the end. Walking out of the meeting, it was like a weight had been lifted off our shoulders.

“We’ve all made mistakes and I didn’t want anyone else to go through what we went through. We didn’t want to not take an opportunity to try and have an impact.”

Peter Salami said: “I thought the conference went really well. The victims got across how the crime impacted them at the time and how they still feel now. The offender was able to express remorse and explain why he did it.

“You can build up a picture of someone when they have done something, so it’s often interesting when you meet them for the first time. I think the victims could relate to the offender on some kind of level. He wasn’t some big bad guy, he was someone who had made some really poor choices.

“It can be quite a therapeutic experience for many people. Statistics show that offenders taking part in restorative justice are less likely to reoffend and even if they do, it’s less likely to be that same offence.”

The perpetrator, Tom*, said: “It was a real eye opener for me to see the impact on them. It has given me a sense of closure as well as they forgave me which is allowing me to forgive myself and concentrate on my future and my family.

“I felt positive and good in myself that I had done it.  I felt that I was able to explain the reasons why I had committed the crime.”
 
*names changed to protect identity