This case reminded me of why I enjoy this work so much. When we help participants unlock what they need from a restorative process and find a way to achieve it, it’s extremely rewarding.
Hi, I’m Wendy and I have been a Restorative Justice Practitioner with Resolve West since 2018. I’m currently working on a murder case with two parties who are known to each other. You can’t work with the actual victim on a murder case, so secondary victims are often family members or partners.
Before I was allocated to the case, the caseworker gathered detailed notes about the incident, the contact details of those involved, and any needs that were identified in those initial conversations.
We start every Restorative Justice case at Resolve West with a handover meeting, which is attended by the case supervisor, the caseworker assigned to the case and the two allocated practitioners. We discuss the information in the case notes, ask questions, and agree our approach to starting the case.
Before this meeting, my co-practitioner and I had talked through our initial thoughts and feelings about the case and our preferred ways of working. Practitioners work in pairs, but it’s helpful if it’s always the same person checking in with one or both parties and arranging the meetings.
Assessing the needs of the parties
In this case the person’s who’s been harmed – the victim – has a very straightforward restorative need. They’d like to see the person responsible before they are released from prison. They want to do this to take away the shock they would feel if they saw them unexpectedly in the street. They have no desire to ask any questions, talk about the impact of what happened, or receive an apology.
One of the key strengths of a Restorative Justice process is that it offers victims some autonomy and control over a situation in which they have often had very little. Decisions about punishment are made by the police, the Crime Prosecution Service (CPS) and the courts. The victim’s voice is often lost.
And in this case the restorative needs of the person responsible for the murder are also very straightforward. They simply want to do what they can to meet the victim’s needs. The person responsible is still in prison so alongside our meetings with them, we’re in regular contact with their Prison Offender Manager (POM). For example, we’ll be given updates on their wellbeing, or find out about upcoming prison courses or parole hearings that might affect the RJ process.
Leading up to the joint meeting…
There are lots of factors to consider and agree with our parties before we facilitate communication between them: is it safe; will it meet the expressed needs; will it help repair the harm caused; which method of communication is appropriate?
In this case we have assessed and agreed with all parties that a face-to-face meeting is the right thing to do. To reach this stage we’ve had three separate meetings with each person. In these we’ve listened, answered questions, gained their permission to share information with the other person and made sure they are completely clear on what Restorative Justice is, and how it might help their healing. We go into great detail – down to agreeing what will be said at the meeting and who will say it. We aim for no surprises.
Last week we had our final meeting at the prison and spent time the Prison Offender Manager (POM) to look at the meeting room where the parties will come face to face, and plan exactly how things will go on the day. For example, which party will be in the room first, and how to ensure they don’t bump into each other in the prison corridors.
After the Joint Meeting
Our joint meeting took place – it was very short and to the point. Both parties felt that it achieved what they wanted. They had been keen for the meeting to take place as soon as possible and there was obvious relief when it was over.
For me this case has been very different to most I have done. In order to satisfy a very simple need, both parties agreed to meet under strict conditions and in challenging circumstances. It reminded me just how varied participants’ needs can be.