Month: November 2015

Restorative Justice: Beryl’s Story

Beryl is a 96-year-old woman who lived on her own after her husband passed away some years previous. She had always been in good health and kept herself fit and well. One day completely out of the blue, Beryl collapsed after having a heart attack; fortunately she was wearing a personal healthcare alarm around her neck and pressed the emergency button. She was taken via ambulance to the hospital where she spent time recovering.

The day after Beryl was taken to hospital, her home was burgled. Beryl was unaware of this at this time. Her hairdresser went to Beryl’s home as they had an appointment and found the property open, the hairdresser went into Beryl’s home and discovered the burglary.

Beryl was told some time after her heart attack about the burglary and she stated that when she found out she ‘nearly had another one’. She initially didn’t want to return to her home and her daughter began looking into alternative accommodation for her. Beryl decided that she wasn’t going to ‘let the burglar’ beat her and went back to her home – she stated that she had had many happy years there.

Beryl had had various items stolen including her jewellery which had great sentimental value to her as they had been bought as gifts by her late husband.

On visiting Beryl, she had a lot of questions that she wanted answers to around the burglary. She wanted to know if her home had been watched, if the offender had seen her having been taken away in an ambulance and therefore knowing that her home would be empty. She felt that by knowing these answers it would give her some closure.

Chase is a 24-year-old man who had been charged with the burglary on Beryl’s home and is currently serving a 3 year prison sentence for the offence. This is the first time that Chase had been sentenced to a custodial sentence. On visiting Chase, he immediately showed a great deal of remorse and empathy for the victim and he also became quite emotional when discussing the burglary. He agreed to indirect communication with Beryl stating that he wanted to try and make ‘things better’ for Beryl.

Chase has battled with a heroin addiction over the past six years. He initially started using heroin to cope with an abusive relationship and quickly became both physically and emotionally addicted to the drug. He stated that he committed the burglary in order to obtain money to fund this addiction.

Beryl wrote to Chase asking him various questions about the burglary to which she wanted answers. Chase responded to Beryl’s letter and wrote a lengthy heartfelt letter back to her answering the questions and informing her that the burglary had been a random act after he noticed that there were no lights on. He also told her how sorry he was for committing the burglary and how ashamed of himself he is and that the guilt he feels is overwhelming. Chase also informed Beryl that he is accessing support and treatment for his drug addiction whilst he is in prison and plans to make positive changes for his future when he is released and he doesn’t want to go back to his ‘old ways’ and never wants to cause another person ‘harm’ again.

On returning to visit Beryl with the letter, she asked for it to be read out to her. As the letter was read she looked quite emotional and afterwards stated that she could hear that Chase was genuinely sorry for his actions. She was pleased that he answered her questions stating that it had now given her ‘peace of mind’ and closure for her.

Beryl had always stated throughout the process that she was ready to move forward and forget about the incident and hopes that the Restorative Justice process would help her to achieve this. However, she did state that she could not forgive Chase for committing the burglary.

After hearing Chase’s words Beryl stated that due to how sorry he was and how genuine the letter was she decided to forgive Chase and wished him well for his future.

When Chase was told that Beryl had forgiven him, he became quite emotional and stated that he thought Beryl was a remarkable lady to be able to forgive him. He also stated that the process has helped him move forward and that he hopes to channel his guilt in a positive manner and concentrate on his recovery.

Beryl said: “I feel better now he has written to me and answered my questions and it has given me peace of mind.

“I have forgiven the offender after making my mind up that I wouldn’t but decided after his letter that I would.

Chase said: “I’ve learned how badly you can hurt people through your own choices.

“People can be so kind, after me doing something so bad – I was still forgiven.”

For more information on Restorative Justice see www.restorativesouthyorkshire.co.uk or call 0800 561 1000 or Text SYRJ to 82055.

**The names have been changed to protect the victim and offender’s identities.

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Restorative Justice: The Offender’s Story

On 17 February 2015, 28-year-old David Etherington from Shafton, Barnsley received a six years and eight months prison sentence for death by dangerous driving.

David was driving a Subaru Impreza around the streets of Doncaster on 29 August when it was involved in a collision with a lamp post at 1.20am.

The incident resulted in the death of Sarah West’s son, 15-year-old Jamie and his dad Stephen who were passengers in the vehicle.

Sarah asked to take part in Restorative Justice as she had some unanswered questions that only David could answer.

Sarah and David met at the prison for the Restorative Justice conference on 15 September 2015.

David said: “I was aware of Restorative Justice from TV which was before I came to prison. Not long after coming to prison I received a leaflet. After reading it, I felt that for me, it was something I wanted to do for the family of my victim.

“I know I can’t change what I have done or make it better, but, this is something that I thought I could do that could be of help to the family.

“The thought of actually meeting my victim’s mum and sitting in front of her knowing what I have done and the effects that my actions have had on her and her family made me very anxious, but I knew this was something I needed to do.

“Once the meeting started I felt a little more comfortable but felt very emotional at the same time, but I was very thankful that I had the opportunity to be able to say what I needed to say and to answer any of Sarah’s questions in the hope of being able to help her understand what had happened and how things had happened, hoping it would give her the answers she needed.

“I am very happy that I had the opportunity to take part in Restorative Justice. I hope that Sarah got out of it what she needed and that it has helped her in some way.”

“I think Restorative justice is a great thing and could benefit many people, both victims and offenders. For victims it can give them the chance to ask questions and for offenders it can make them realise what they have done.”

If anyone would like more information on Restorative Justice in South Yorkshire they can visit the website www.resorativesouthyorkshire.co.uk call 0800 561 100 or text SYRJ to 82055.

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Restorative Justice: Sarah’s Story

On 29 August 2014, 36-year-old Sarah West from Mexborough, DoncastSarah Wester became a victim when her 15-year-old son Jamie was killed in a road traffic collision by 28-year-old David Etherington from Shafton, Barnsley.

David Etherington is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for an offence of Death by Dangerous Driving in which two people lost their lives. The deceased were Jamie aged 15 years and his dad Stephen, age 38.

Sarah was visited by the Restorative Justice provider Remedi as she was interested in Restorative Justice as she needed to know about the events leading up to the accident. Sarah explained that her 15 year old son and his father Stephen were in the car when it crashed. They both lost their lives.

On the day of the meeting Sarah was picked up from her home, she was still very much looking forward to getting the answers she needed but was obviously nervous.

At the Restorative Justice conference, Sarah asked what had happened on that night.  David was overcome with emotion and apologised for what had happened, he recounted the events of the evening, explaining why they were out late at night and why he was speeding.

He told Sarah that everyone in the car was asking him to go faster and he wanted to make them happy so he did. He stated that even though he was asked to go faster he knows it was his choice to speed and not the fault of anyone else in the vehicle.

David apologised again for the death of Sarah’s son, Sarah told him that she wanted him to be able to moCalling Card - Infove on with his life and look after his children, and that what is done is done and he needs to move on as does she. Sarah asked David to look to the future and look after his children when he gets out of prison.

Sarah said: “I didn’t know much about Restorative Justice, but I was glad to have had the opportunity to have the meeting as I feel that the pieces to the jigsaw had been put together. I feel I have got the answers I needed.

“The night after the meeting I had mixed emotions as I felt sorry for David, which made this difficult to deal with at first. I am now pleased to have taken part and would like to thank those that made it possible.

“I didn’t realise how emotional it was going to be, however I feel this experience has really helped.”

If anyone would like further information on Restorative Justice in South Yorkshire, they can visit the website www.restorativesouthyorkshire.co.uk or call 0800 561 1000.

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Restorative Justice Hub proving a success in South Yorkshire

The South Yorkshire Restorative Justice hub was launched on 2 June 2015.  Since then, awareness of Restorative Justice has grown significantly across the county with a large number of victims receiving contact from our trained practitioners.

The hub has processed 1342 cases for initial contact, 245 of which are currently live.  To date, there have been 6 direct Restorative Justice outcomes (face to face meetings) and 15 indirect outcomes (written communication). 37 of our live cases are progressing towards Restorative Justice;14 will result in a direct Restorative Justice outcome between the victim and offender.

What if RJ is the only way you can find answers to your questionsSince the launch of the Restorative Justice Hub, there have been five direct outcomes of a Restorative Justice conference and 15 indirect outcomes, where the victim and offender do not meet, but restorative justice takes place by means of a letter, apology or other action requested by the victim.

A direct Restorative Justice outcome is when a victim can ask to meet the offender who committed the crime against them.  Remedi, South Yorkshire’s Restorative Justice provider visit victims and asses the case and its suitability for Restorative Justice.  If the case is deemed suitable and after relevant risk assessments, the offender will be contacted and asked to take part.

Restorative Justice can take part anywhere.  The meeting can take place in the prison or at an agreed location, subject to it being safe for both the victim and the offender.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire said:  “I am very pleased with how the South Yorkshire Restorative Justice Hub has been received.  The funding from the Ministry of Justice provided to offer this service has been well used in raising awareness of Restorative Justice, which is a complex issue, but also providing the service.

“Restorative Justice offers victims the opportunity to ask questions of their offenders that they would not normally have the opportunity to do.  When a crime is committed, many victims feel it was personal, that they are still unsafe and sometimes they were to blame.  By having to opportunity to speak to those who have committed the crime, they will find this is very often not the case.

“We are receiving some excellent feedback from industry professionals and victims about the provision.  I hope anyone who is interested in finding out more, takes the opportunity to visit the website or call the information line to see how the service can help them.

Find a new strengthThe Restorative Justice service is being supported by a Ministry of Justice grant provided to the Commissioner and is a partnership initiative led by the South Yorkshire Criminal Justice Board, which comprises criminal justice partners including Office of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, South Yorkshire Police, Crown Prosecution Service, HMCTS (Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service), South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company, Youth Offending Teams, Prisons, Legal Aid Agency and Victim Support. Remedi are the service provider for restorative justice in South Yorkshire.

To mark Restorative Justice Week which commenced on 15 November and will run to 21 November, case studies of South Yorkshire victims who have met with their offenders will be shared on the website.

If anyone would like more information on Restorative Justice in South Yorkshire, they can visit the website at www.restorativesouthyorkshire.co.uk call the Helpline Number 0800 561 1000 or Text SYRJ to 82055.

There is also a Twitter account @RestorativeSY that will be tweeting information throughout Restorative Justice Week.

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