Offenders say sorry

Restorative justice project brings victims and offenders together in Dyfed Powys.

Offenders in Dyfed Powys are being given the opportunity to meet their victims and make amends for their crimes.

Wales Community Rehabilitation Company, which provides probation services for medium to low risk offenders, has launched a scheme across the county which allows offenders to be held to account for the distress or damage they have caused by facing their victims.

Commissioned by the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, the Dyfed Powys Restorative Justice Scheme aims to bring together people harmed by crime or conflict with those responsible for the harm in a controlled environment.

The scheme gives victims the chance to tell offenders the real impact of their crime, get answers to their questions and an apology. It also holds offenders to account for what they have done and helps them understand the real impact and take responsibility.

Since the scheme started in April there have been a series of positive face-to-face meetings between offenders and victims in the Carmarthenshire area. There are also plans for similar interventions with offenders and victims across Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Powys.

In Llanelli one victim of theft agreed to meet the female offender who had stolen from her.  She told her: “I was so angry and upset because the jewellery you took had sentimental value and I will never be able to replace it.”

As a result the offender explained how she had taken the items to sell to fund her drug use but she was now clean from drugs and was sorry for what she had done.

During another meeting an offender wanted to say sorry to a member of his family, after being sentenced to a community order for assault and theft.

Following alcohol counselling, his probation officer referred him to the Restorative Justice scheme and contact was made with the victim.
Several meetings were held individually with both the victim and offender in advance to ensure the victim was comfortable before the face-to-face conference went ahead at a neutral venue. During the meeting the victim explained how she had been badly hurt.

The offender later said: “Until we met I didn’t realise just how selfish I had been and how this had an impact on my family. I was able to say sorry and now I am keen to work to improve my behaviour and rebuild my family’s trust.”.

Ella Rabaiotti, Head of Wales CRC’s Dyfed Powys Local Delivery Unit, said: “Restorative Justice is a powerful way to get offenders to understand the effect their actions can have on their victims. Getting victims and their offenders to meet can take time as probation staff have to get agreement from both sides and must make sure the victim feels safe and comfortable at all times before the conference can go ahead.

“When the meetings finally take place they are quite often emotional for both sides but can also be a positive experience. For victims just having an answer to their question ‘why?’ or an apology means they can move on with their lives.  For the offenders understanding how they have hurt a person has a powerful impact on them and prevents them reoffending.”

Throughout Restorative Justice Week probation staff in Dyfed Powys will be holding meetings with victim organisations, justice partners and offenders to raise awareness of the scheme.

Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon said: “I’ve seen restorative practice in action – and it works. It’s good for the crime victim, the offender and the community.

“I encourage victims and offenders to look on any restorative resolution with positivity and optimism.

“I also encourage individuals and community groups around Dyfed Powys to approach Wales CRC with any ideas they have about how restorative schemes such as Community Payback could work in their local area.”

Throughout Restorative Justice Week probation staff in Dyfed Powys will be holding meetings with victim organisations, justice partners and offenders to raise awareness of the scheme.

Pictured are Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon with Ella Rabaiotti, head of Wales CRC’s Dyfed Powys delivery unit promote Restorative Justice to offenders and victims during Restorative Justice Week 2015.