From fear to forgiveness through Restorative Justice
This week is International Restorative Justice Week and “Gemma” - a Sussex woman whose home was burgled while she was in her kitchen - is speaking out about how meeting “Tim”, the man who committed the crime, helped her family to find closure.
Restorative Justice (RJ) is a voluntary process which gives victims of crime the opportunity to describe to the offender the impact the crime has had on them. It will only happen if both the victim and the offender want to take part and the offender has taken responsibility for their crime. A trained facilitator is assigned to the case to support both parties and a face-to-face meeting will only take place if the facilitator decides that it is safe to do so.
Working with their facilitator, participants can decide the best option for communicating with the offender including by letter, via trained facilitator or in face-to-face conferences.
Gemma chose to meet Tim face-to-face. She said: “It felt amazing to be able to ask the niggling questions at the back of my mind about the burglary and have them answered.
“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.”
Explaining his experience of the process Tim said: “I’d already heard about Restorative Justice in the past so I was really interested in 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. 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 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.”
In Sussex RJ is delivered by the award-winning Sussex RJ Partnership which was established in 2014 by Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne. It is composed of more than 20 agencies including: the National Probation Service; Her Majesty’s Prison Service; Sussex Police; Sussex Pathways and Victim Support.
Commissioner Bourne said: “Restorative Justice is a powerful and effective process which gives the victim the opportunity to describe, often in great detail, to the offender the impact that their crime has had upon them.
“In Sussex, 97% of those who take part in RJ are happy with the process and an impressive 56% of those offenders who complete the process have had no further convictions.
“I’m immensely thankful for the hard work of our RJ partnership, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has helped hundreds of victims in our county to heal and to ask those questions that so often go unanswered during traditional criminal justice processes.”
To read Gemma and Tim’s experience of RJ in their own words and find out more about how to participate in the process visit: www.sussex-pcc.gov.uk/RJ