Restorative Justice supports victims who are verbally abused

British Transport Police and Restorative Solutions deliver their first racially aggravated restorative justice (RJ) intervention

A series of offences, namely ‘provocation of violence’, were committed against a 28 year old Muslim female at the Highams Park rail station. Whilst waiting for her train on the platform, the female was repeatedly called ‘Scum’ by a male in his fifties who was unknown to her. She could hear the male mumble the word ‘scum’ however, she was initially not sure the word was directed at her. The incident carried on from September 2015 up until late January 2016. This eventually made the female feel she was indeed being directly targeted and concerned for her safety, the victim notified her husband.

The perpetrator was confronted by the victim’s husband when their paths crossed. This was when the perpetrator committed the second offence namely ‘racially aggravated threatening words and behaviour’.  The victim’s husband was called a ‘f****** foreigner’ when he approached the perpetrator to find out why his wife was being called ‘Scum’. Following this altercation, the incident was reported to the police and the perpetrator was subsequently arrested.

PC Canning approached the Restrorative Solutions team to find out if Restorative Justice (RJ) could be used to support the victims as they were both willing to meet with the perpetrator to find answers to why they had been targeted and wanted to receive an apology. Due to the perpetrator accepting responsibility, the level of remorse shown by the perpetrator and the incident being out of character, the matter was handled as a level 2 Community Resolution (CR) with a facilitated restorative approach. The victims were both hesitant in going through the criminal justice process which made the RJ option a suitable approach in addition to the CR.

After initial meetings with both of the victims and the perpetrator to assess motivations for taking part in RJ, a date was agreed to the conference to take place whereby all parties involved meet face-to-face. Michael Fajobi and practitioner Olivia Lyons both facilitated the conference which was agreed by all. The meeting started with the perpetrator explaining what happened, what was going through his mind when he committed both crimes, what he thought of his behaviour upon reflection and how he suffers from depression. The victims were then able to explain how his actions made them feel. Being called ‘Scum’ made the female victim feel as though she was beneath the perpetrator, she also felt targeted because no one else on the platform was called ‘Scum’, only her.

The male victim was also able to express how he felt by telling the perpetrator how angry he was when he found out what was going on and how angry he felt when he was referred to as a f****** foreigner. Both victims made the perpetrator aware that his depression does not give him the right to call anyone anything like this. Upon hearing the harm caused to the victims, the perpetrator acknowledged what he did was wrong, apologised wholeheartedly and as a gesture of his appreciation for their forgiveness, he offered to take the victims out for lunch at any restaurant of their choice.

As a result of the meeting, the victims received a sincere apology from the perpetrator, which they said helped them to achieve real closure. All parties agreed to acknowledge each other when they do cross paths in the future and the perpetrator promised both victims, he will seek Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help him cope with his depression and he also vowed never to repeat this behaviour. It was agreed that the perpetrator reports to Michael Fajobi once he starts CBT on May 2016 and it was also agreed that his progress will be regularly reported back to the victims in order to enable full closure.

Both victims were very pleased that they were initially informed about the option of RJ by PC Canning and they were both pleased that they had the opportunity to meet with the perpetrator.

The perpetrator thanked both facilitators for their time in organising the meeting and for having the opportunity to speak directly to the victims. This outcome demonstrates the huge value and importance of RJ, the benefits of avoiding the full criminal justice process and the positive conclusion for all involved in this matter.

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