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Case study – Emma and a group of young offenders

Emma and her family were victims of crime and decided to take part in the restorative justice process.

As the victims are youths, we have not disclosed the offender’s full names.

The incident

Five youths (all under eighteen years old) trespassed onto private land on two occasions, causing criminal damage to abandoned vehicles owned by Emma. Their actions were recorded on a video camera. The offenders all accepted responsibility and agreed to participate in restorative justice.

The restorative justice process

The restorative justice facilitators met Emma at her home. She described the physical and emotional impact the damage had had on her and her family. She talked about feelings of fear, anxiety and anger and resented the fact that she felt unable to walk without concern on her own land. Following the incident, an elderly relative became fearful and distressed and stopped eating, becoming seriously ill.

Emma reported significant damage to several cars and a caravan which, whilst in disrepair, were still of practical and emotional value.

She said that she wanted to help the young people to recognise the need to take responsibility for their actions and to think about the consequences in future. She described feeling anger and hatred from the harmers’ actions and said she did not wish to meet them in person, as she felt this would be too triggering.

It was agreed that a shuttle communication by restorative letter was the most beneficial option. The facilitators worked with Emma helping her write a letter to which the offenders could respond.

The facilitators met the offenders over Zoom, with their parents also present. They were unaware of the impact of their actions until they and their parents were visited by the police.

The impact on them centred on the embarrassment and guilt about the distress they had caused, both to the victims and also to their own parents. They all wanted to make an apology and to move on. Emma’s letter was read to each offender and their reactions to it discussed.

The distress caused to the elderly relative was a key factor for all them. They were asked to draft a letter after the first session and at a subsequent meeting this draft was discussed and finalised. The offenders and their parents commented on how helpful the two sessions had been.

The offenders were all able to write letters of apology, which included recognition of the impact of their actions and the importance of taking responsibility for their own actions. They reported that the process had helped them and that they were glad to have had the opportunity to apologise, acknowledge the distress they had caused both to Emma and their parents and to achieve closure.

The offender’s letters were read to Emma in two sessions, with time given between for comment and reflection. Emma was satisfied that she had received thoughtful and appropriate letters of apology and that her views had been heard.

Emma was pleased to have achieved her aim of getting the young people to take responsibility for their actions, both now and in the future. She noted a release of negative feelings.

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