This week Victims First Northumbria (VFN) will be supporting International Restorative Justice Week to highlight its role in helping victims recover from their experience of crime.
As part of the work they carry out, VFN and a victim, Joan (not her real name), wanted to share Joan’s story to show the benefits the Restorative Justice process can have for victims.
After her sister’s murder, Joan had been left with a lot of unanswered questions, she hadn’t been able to voice her thoughts and feelings and generally felt unable to move on. Joan then contacted VFN, an independent charity set up by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, and whose staff are trained to help support and facilitate the communication between victims and offenders.
VFN worked with Joan and liaised with the prison and after further discussions and completion of risk assessments with both Joan and the offender, VFN were happy to proceed with Joan’s wishes of a direct conference to be held at the prison.
During the conference, both Joan and the offender had the opportunity to talk about the incident and how they felt. Joan was able to ask questions she’d needed answers to, explain the true impact the incident had on her and her family and also to hear the offender’s perspective. The meeting was highly emotive and was very carefully managed and supported by the VFN facilitators.
Following the conference Joan said: “I’m so pleased that I chose the option of Restorative Justice. I have found it so beneficial; it is brilliant- what a massive difference it has made. I have managed to let go of some of the pain and anger which was impacting both me and my family. The whole process and support I have received from Victims First Northumbria has been amazing.”
VFN Restorative Supervisor, Emma Brown, who co-facilitated the conference said: “We are so pleased to have been able to help and support Joan to get the closure she needed following the death of her sister. This was a serious and complex case, which required a lot of planning and working with both parties, to get to the conference stage and ensure the intervention went ahead in a safe and controlled environment. We got a great outcome in that Joan was able to have her voice heard and that’s what Restorative Justice is all about.”
Ruth Parker, Chief Executive of Victims First Northumbria, said: “VFN receives funding from the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, to ensure people who have been victims of crime in Northumbria have an opportunity to take back control and obtain answers from the offender about why the crime was committed. This can empower the victim and holds the offender to account, making sure they understand the impact the crime has had on a victim. Joan’s case demonstrates this and I commend her for her bravery in seeing this through to a conclusion which has helped her and her family move on with their lives.”
Dame Vera said: “Restorative Justice Week comes shortly after VFN were presented with the Restorative Service Quality Mark by HRH The Princess Royal, which again highlights the outstanding work they are carrying out for victims. Restorative Justice can be incredibly beneficial for the victim and enables them to find closure and move on whilst being fully supported by trained staff.”
On Thursday 22nd November, VFN will be holding a Q&A session where our staff will be on hand to answer any questions people may have or to provide more information and advice about engaging in Restorative Justice.
Joan continued: “If my story and experience helps one victim who has been thinking about communicating with their offender to proceed and hopefully get the closure they need then it is even more beneficial.”
If you have been a victim of crime and are interested in exploring your Restorative Justice options further, please get in touch with Victims First Northumbria on 0800 011 3116 or through our website https://victimsfirstnorthumbria.org.uk/