An Attempted Burglary: Restorative Justice Case Study
When Joanne and her husband had just gone to bed, they heard a really loud bang downstairs. They immediately thought someone had kicked their front door down - they were worried that someone had broken in. Joanne’s husband got dressed and went to look downstairs but there was no one there, the person had not got into the house.
They looked at the ring doorbell footage and saw that Steve had attempted to break down the door. They later found out that Steve was involved in a chain of events in the same neighbourhood that night, including forced entry, arson, and theft of a car.
After he had been given a prison sentence, Steve agreed to take part in Restorative Justice with Joanne.
4 preparation meetings were held with Joanne. She explained to us what had happened and how it had impacted her. On the night, Joanne felt shocked and panicked. She didn’t know whether it was random attack or she and her husband were targeted. She spent a lot of time thinking ‘is he going to come back and try again with a sledgehammer next time?’ and ‘are we safe?’.
Joanne and her husband did not sleep well the first night and for a few nights after. Any loud noises outside the house have more of an impact on her than they used to. Also, the motion sensor on the doorbell sounds sometimes and this now makes her feel jumpy.
Joanne wanted to understand more about what was happening on that night, and the whole picture, not just what happened at her house. She also wanted to know if Steve was angry with her for supplying the ring doorbell footage to the police and what plans Steve had for the future.
In Steve's preparation meetings, he appeared through a video link from prison. The Chaplain and the POM were included. He said he was willing to engage with any of the people he harmed on that evening.
Steve gave a full account of everything that happened, including the circumstances that led up to it. He had been out drinking and taking Valium in a car with friends when they drove past a car garage. He thought the owners of the car garage were responsible for the recent death of a friend. He jumped out of the car, bought a can of petrol, and set fire to one of the cars on the lot. He then panicked, realising what he had done, and tried to get away.
He proceeded to try to break in to houses in the area to get car keys in order to steal a car and make a quick getaway. He tried knocking down multiple doors before smashing into a porch and demanding car keys from the homeowner. The homeowner handed over the keys and Steve stole the car. He drove away, crashed into a parked car, and was arrested.
Steve was keen to have a direct (face-to-face) Restorative Justice process from the beginning. He wanted to apologise for what happened and explain that he was on drugs at the time. He has come off drugs completely since then. He wanted an opportunity to explain what happened and put Joanne at ease.
In preparation for the direct process, we confirmed with Steve that he was prepared to share the full account of what happened on that night with Joanne. We also asked Steve whether he held any anger towards Joanne because of her supplying the ring doorbell footage.
Steve wasn’t angry. He said he would’ve done the same thing in her shoes. During preparation, Joanne told us that her father had been in prison and we explored whether going into a prison might be difficult for her. She felt it would actually be helpful so she could better understand what he went through.
The risk assessment we carried out highlighted minimal risks. Steve's mental health had been considered as he did express that after having told us the full story he felt a little down. However, his anxiety was being managed by medication and the Chaplaincy team was checking in on him. The Chaplain was his silent supporter throughout the process.
The Restorative Justice meeting took place in the Chaplaincy of the prison. Prior to the meeting, both parties had had a full explanation of how the meeting would play out and where the break-out rooms were.
Once everyone was seated, Laura, the RJ Facilitator, made introductions and went over the guidelines. Liz then asked Steve to explain what happened and what was going on for him at the time. Steve gave a full explanation. Liz turned to Joanne and asked her what had happened. Joanne explained and then went on to thank Steve for his account.
Joanne and Steve spoke a lot about the night of the incident. They also spoke about many other topics, like mutual connections in their community, what they were watching on TV (Love Island), and what Steve would do when he left prison. Joanne asked Steve if she could write to him in prison and he agreed. Both parties said that they’d gained everything they’d hoped for from the meeting.
Joanne said: “The process was brilliant, really eye-opening. It has helped me to understand more about the crime committed and why it was committed. I sleep better at night, feel more connected to the person who committed the crime, and have been able to share with others my positive experience. Without this opportunity, I would probably have held onto feelings of guilt for supplying the evidence which led to the conviction.”
Steve said: “Thank you. It’s great that the victim feels better and I was surprised by how understanding she was.”