This case study was originally published on the West Midlands RJ Hub.
This case was a West Midlands Police burglary case. The offender had committed a burglary at a church in Birmingham city centre. He had entered the church and found his way upstairs to the living quarters and stole a bag which belonged to a nun that resides in the church. The offender went on to spend £1000 from the nun’s bank account. The offender was sentenced to 3 years for this crime and a number of other burglaries that he had committed.
A number of months after being sentenced, the offender wrote a letter of apology to his victim. This spurred the victim on to contact the police officer that had dealt with the case and asked if she could meet with the offender in prison. The case was then referred to The West Midlands RJ Service team and allocated to a member of the team.
The co-ordinator met with the victim, a 92 year old nun, at the church where she resided. I explained how RJ would work, and that we would be able to plan, organise and facilitate the meeting with the offender. The victim was very keen and told us that she felt that she could not rest until she met with him. She explained the events on the day of the crime and that the offender had committed the crime during a busy service at the church. The crime had a massive impact on the victim and she described that she spent the weeks following the incident, worried and would not leave the church. She felt that he would recognise her and potentially cause her harm again. The victim had some sentimental items in her bag and was upset that she had lost the keys for her locker, which meant that she could not obtain her belongings. She told us that she had since forgiven him and prays for him daily along with other members of the church.
On receiving the letter the victim felt very touched by the offender’s honesty as he described that he had a drug addiction for over 20 years and that he was sorry and remorseful for his crimes. The victim felt as though she wanted to help him. She expressed that she was in strange sort of way, grateful that this had happened to her, as that saved someone else from the same harm. The victim stated that she could not rest until she had met with the offender, which we assured her we would arrange and facilitate for her.
The co-ordinator liaised with HMP Birmingham, Restorative Justice Team, to be informed that the offender had been moved to another prison just the day before. The Prison RJ team were very supportive and managed to arrange for the offender to be moved back to HMP Birmingham to facilitate the RJ conference as close as possible for the victim due to her age and mobility. The offender agreed and was very keen to make amends for his crime. An RJ preparation visit was booked with the offender on his return.
During the prep meeting the offender spoke at length about his criminal history and drug use, his family life and what lead him to a life of crime. He also spoke to us about the day of the crime. He was in a very bad place and heavily reliant on drugs. He described himself as an opportunist, and that day “it could have been anyone”. He had gone into the church as it was very busy and found himself upstairs, he said that he did not know that people lived in the church. The offender was very open and was very much interested in the RJ process for the right reasons. There were no benefits to taking part in terms of sentence reduction and he simply wanted to say sorry to his victim and let her know that she was not targeted and that he did not want her to feel unsafe. After speaking to both parties it was evident that both parties wanted to help the other to move on from this incident and the effects of it.
The Conference was conducted. The offender started off with a heartfelt apology for his crime. He talked us through the events on the day of the crime. He explained that he was at a bad place emotionally and his battle with drug use, recent breakup with his partner and separation from his children. He continuously said that he was not making any excuses and that this was no justification for his actions. He said that he had not targeted her specifically and did not want her to feel as though she needed to be afraid of future.
The victim spoke to the offender about the letter that he sent and told him that he had been very honest and that this had led to her wanting to meet him. She told the offender of the impact that the crime had had on her and that she did not leave the church quarters for some time after and that she felt that he may come back and find her and possibly harm her. She has a pacemaker and the stress of this had been detrimental to her health. She had received some money back from the bank for her monetary loss, but had been impacted more by the fear that she had been left with. She gave the offender a firm talking to and told him that he needed to seek help for his drug problems and that he did not seem as if he is in control of himself. He bowed his head in shame and agreed with his victim. He was also very honest about the fact that he cannot guarantee that he will leave prison and not commit a grime as he described that he has had his nan and parents talk to him and although it resonates, he has still gone on to commit more crimes.
He described a buzz that he feels when committing crimes. We explored the times when the had managed to stay off drugs and maintain a job and allowed him to think about what was different at this time and whether he was still getting this “buzz” that he craved . During this time he did some volunteer work with disabled children, he did a mountain climb, and organised football tournaments. The victim encouraged the offender that he should believe in himself. She gave him a bible and asked him to reach a verse every night. The offender hung his head, and said he cannot believe that she would give him a gift after what he did. He learnt a lesson in forgiveness and agreed to some outcomes that would help him in his journey to a life away from crime.
One agreement was that he left prison and went straight into a residential drug rehab. Following the conference, we sourced a rehab that is ideal for the offender. We liaised with his offender manager and the referral has been put in. The offender will spend 8 weeks in this residential rehab on his release and will be the beginning of his journey to a more positive way of life.
Both parties left the meeting very grateful for the Restorative Justice process and felt that they had been given closure. Both had attended the meeting to provide closure for the other and this was achieved. The offender asked the victim if he could write to her about his progress, which she was very open to. Restorative justice has provided a valuable tool in both of their lives.