Ann's story

Ann felt insecure and vulnerable after her car was stolen from her disabled space and the home she shared with her teenage daughter was burgled. Despite resistance from friends, Ann was determined to go ahead with a restorative justice meeting. She found its value in not only helping her through the ordeal, but in helping to turn lives away from crime. 

"It was early on a Saturday morning. I first noticed that the car was missing from my disabled space outside when I looked out of the bathroom window. I woke up my 16-year-old daughter, who jumped out of bed saying, 'Call the police'.  We went downstairs together, and realised that my laptop, purse and bag were also missing. 

"The police arrived quickly, and they’d found the car within an hour, burnt out and abandoned. I was devastated – the car was my pride and joy, and I’d taken such good care of it. It was awful knowing someone had been in our house while we were sleeping. I live alone with my daughter, and the fact that we hadn’t heard anything was really scary. There were lots of personal photos on my laptop, and I kept thinking, 'These people know what we look like – what if they come back?'

"The police stayed with us for the rest of the day, helping us to deal with the insurance company and get my bank cards stopped. By the evening, they told me they’d arrested a suspect. A group of teenagers had been involved, but the youngest had taken the blame. I was shocked to discover that he was only 14 years old.

"I wanted them to know what they'd put me through – not just the burglary, but the repercussions."

"I’d never heard of restorative justice, but Paul Taylor, the restorative justice facilitator from Essex Youth Offending Service, showed me a film about it [The Woolf Within], which I found really interesting. When I told people I was thinking of doing restorative justice they couldn’t see the point. They told me I was wasting my time, and they were worried that it would be too much for me after what I’d been through.

"For me, though, it seemed like a chance to find out why these kids had done what they had. I really wanted them to know exactly what they’d put me through – it wasn’t just the burglary, it was the repercussions. I felt very vulnerable in my home. Even though I’m a grown adult and they were just kids, I felt insecure, and I was having trouble sleeping.

"I decided I wanted to meet the 14-year-old boy. Paul put me completely at ease. He told me what would happen at the meeting, and went through my questions with me. I used to work for the Citizens Advice Bureau, so I’m used to dealing with people, but I was still worried about how emotional I might feel on the day.

"He was nervous and trembling, and he looked much younger than his age. "

"It was very formal when we arrived at the meeting. It took place in a nice room, with a big table, and the young man was sitting there with his social worker. He was nervous and trembling, and he looked much younger than his age. As soon as I saw him I thought, 'I can’t believe what’s happened to you – how did you get in with the wrong people?' He immediately started to talk. He told me how he’d changed schools and made friends with some much older kids, and had got into drugs very quickly. That’s why they’d burgled me – drugs money. He felt awful about it.

"I thought he was really brave. He didn’t have to do the meeting, to face up to me. After he’d finished talking, it was my turn to tell him how I felt. I told him about how stressful it was dealing with the insurance, and how lost I’d felt without my car. I explained that it doesn’t just end with the burglary – it goes on for months and months. It made me upset telling him what I’d been through.

"The meeting was a wake-up call. It made him sort himself out." 

"The meeting really hit that boy hard – it was a wake-up call. If he had carried on kicking around with his mates, and hadn’t been arrested and charged, his life would have just got worse and worse. It was an awful way to learn, but it made him sort himself out and decide what to do with his future. I can’t believe I’d never heard of restorative justice. If there’s a chance that it can make someone turn their life around, it should be used. I’m hoping that my meeting has meant that one less person will be involved in crime in the future."

 

The Restorative Justice Council would like to thank Ann for sharing her story with us.

© Restorative Justice Council 2015 – do not reproduce without permission.

For interview requests please contact Safi Schlicht: safi@restorativejustice.org.uk

Resource themes: 
Criminal justice, Offenders, Victims, Youth justice
Resource categories: 
Case studies