Liam and Jake's story
Liam: “Last February, I finished playing football and Jake spat chocolate at me. I asked him why he did it and he said that someone told him that I called him a pussy. Then, he came from behind with a glass bottle and cut me. It was a bit frightening and the other people around didn’t try to stop him, but I didn’t realise at the time what he’d done.
“I just walked off, but when I got close to home I touched my chin and it was bleeding.
"My mum and my nan took me to the hospital where I got butterfly stitches. I kept thinking: ‘Why would he do it to me?’ and felt angry and frustrated. My mum and my nan were really upset.”
Jake: “I didn’t know at first that I’d cut him but when I got home my coach sent me a message on Facebook saying: ‘Did you have an incident with Liam today?’ At first I denied it and then she said he’d gone to hospital and he had to have stitches – that’s when I realised that I’d done some serious damage.
“At first I wasn’t really thinking about Liam. I was just thinking: ‘What’s going to happen? Am I going to get in big trouble? What are my parents going to think?’”
Liam: “The police got involved straight away and when they got Jake’s name they said he was probably known to them. It was easy for them to find him as he was on the same team as me.
“Later the police called us back and said that we needed to go to court but then Jake pleaded guilty so we didn’t need to go anymore. I felt that half of the justice had been done.
“In the time between him hurting me and the restorative justice meeting, I’d seen Jake because we’d played a few matches together and we’d trained together. Seeing him those times I thought that he was just a violent child.
“Kate from the youth offending service told me about restorative justice, saying that I could have a meeting and talk to Jake about why he’d done it and how it had affected me. I felt proud that I was going to be strong, and come and face him.”
Jake: “Kate and Pete [from Southwark Youth Offending Service] prepared me for the restorative meeting by going through some questions like how do you feel? What caused you to do that? How do you feel knowing that Liam’s got a scar?”
Liam: “I wanted to ask Jake why he did it, what made him feel that was appropriate and how he thought that made me feel. It’s hard telling people those things and I was nervous. I felt like a weight was on my shoulders.
“In the meeting he seemed like he was listening to me and how I felt about it. He was a bit nervous and seemed like he was giving honest answers. He said that he did it because he was in front of his friends and wanted to show off – he admitted that he wouldn’t have done it if his friends hadn’t been there. He also said sorry.”
Jake: “In the meeting it came out that Liam has epilepsy – that’s when it really hit me, because I have epilepsy too. I was silent for a minute or two. I was so shocked, and I felt so bad about what I’d done to him because it made his epilepsy worse, causing flashbacks. I know what it’s like to have a seizure, so I felt terrible about that.
“I answered questions and had a chance to say sorry, and I think he realised that what I was saying was coming from the heart.”
Liam: “When I walked out of the meeting I felt like both weights had been lifted off – mine, and Jake’s too. My mum and my nan were happy as well and I think that they were proud of me.
“If I bumped into Jake in the street, I’d say hello to him but if he isn’t comfortable he doesn’t have to say hello back.”
Jake: “After the meeting it felt like a big rock had come off my shoulders and in the following weeks I felt that things were good. Everything had been sorted because I’d gone out on a limb and had the courage to do the meeting. So I felt pretty good about myself that I could do something like that.
“Restorative justice is a good thing because it makes you feel better and the person that you’ve harmed feels better as well. People who have been harmed can be scared and think: ‘Is there something still between me and that person? If I see him again is he going to try to hurt me again?’ They don’t really know whether the problem’s been solved and they haven’t had the chance to discuss what’s happened, but when you have a restorative meeting you can answer their questions and reassure them. Its also a chance to reflect on what you did wrong, why you shouldn’t have done it, how you made that person feel and the effect that it’s had on their life.”
Liam: “After the meeting with Jake I feel different. Beforehand when I touched the cut I’d get really angry about it because I felt that justice hadn’t been done. Now I feel that justice has been properly dealt with. I think that restorative justice is a good thing and it helps people to move on with their lives.”
The RJC would like to thank Southwark Youth Offending Service, and Liam and Jake for sharing their story with us.
*Liam and Jake’s names have both been changed.
© Restorative Justice Council 2016 – do not reproduce without permission.
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