Victim ambassadors’ stories

Pat and Dave RogersDave’s Story

Dave and Pat Rogers’ 25 year old son, Adam, was killed on 5th July 2009. With the loss of their son, their lives changed forever. After the court case was over, Dave felt a real need to talk to the young man who’d been convicted of the killing. He wanted him to hear directly about the harm and hurt he’d caused.

Adam was killed after he’d tried to break up a fight in Blackburn town centre. He’d been out with a group of friends that evening. When they were set upon by another bunch of young men, Adam tried to isolate one of them in order to stop him from joining in the fight. This young man was so drunk and angry at being restrained that he punched Adam in the face, resulting in a head injury which was to prove fatal.

The loss of a much loved son

On that night the Rogers’ life changed for ever. They describe Adam as a gentle person, a wonderful son and brother and a true friend. Over the next few months they went through the ordeal of seeing William Upton, the young man who delivered that fatal punch, arrested and tried in court. He was found guilty of causing Adam’s death and was sent to a Young Offenders’ Institution.

Unanswered questions

The court case left Dave and Pat with questions that they knew only William Upton could answer.

“I’d heard of the concept of restorative justice before we lost Adam, and thought it sounded like a good idea. I just never dreamed I’d ever need to seek it myself one day”, said Dave.

“I made some enquiries and eventually the probation service arranged a meeting with him at the young peoples’ prison where he was being held. Pat wasn’t ready to be in the same room as him, but she supported me going and understood why I needed to.

Communicating the damage and hurt

“At the trial he did not appear to show genuine remorse. I really needed him to understand that what had happened was his fault.

“After I got into the room and we sat down, the first thing he did was apologise. I think the whole thing was harrowing for him. I think he knew at this point that he’d done a lot of harm.

Friends suffer too

“I also told him that it wasn’t just us – Adam’s family – who have suffered. It was his friends too. Adam’s death had a big effect on them. I don’t think he’d realised that.

“I felt it was important for him to know who Adam was – so I told him alot about my son. I showed him photos of Adam.”

Dave feels that his meeting with Adam’s killer was very worthwhile. He is now a strong advocate of restorative justice.

Anti-violence action

Since losing Adam, the Rogers family and Adam’s friends have run an anti violence campaign called “Every Action has Consequences.” Dave is a frequent speaker in schools and is also involved in prison work.

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LauraLaura’s story

Laura’s house was burgled while she and her family were asleep in their beds. Meeting the perpetrator allowed her to get her feelings out and tell him the terrible impact of his actions.

“As my husband, Richard and I sat there listening to JK we got more and more incensed. He just didn’t care how devastated he had made us feel. We were sitting in a Restorative Justice Conference, and he simply hadn’t got a clue. He just wasn’t bothered.

Feelings of anger

He actually said he really couldn’t remember breaking into our flat, as he was high on drugs. It seemed to us he was almost trying to convince us to feel sympathy for him, like HE was a victim! When he’d finished giving his story, we were furious. And then it was our turn.

“The facilitators asked us what we remembered of that terrible night. I felt a sudden rush of emotion, and I just remember ranting and crying – I’m not sure I actually said anything. But I glimpsed JK’s face – he looked truly horrified by my outburst.

The horror of being burgled

“It was in May the previous year, about 3 am. I was asleep, as was our new baby in his cot near our bed. Suddenly I woke up to hear my husband Richard whispering “we’ve been burgled …”.

“I simply couldn’t believe it. The worst emotion of all was that we felt we’d been powerless, as new parents, to protect our little son.

“JK stole all Richard’s hard-earned equipment, without which he simply could not work, and my beloved vintage bag from our little boy’s push-chair, containing precious baby pictures, my diary, my phone with all my friends’ details. We were simply devastated.

The aftermath

“That summer was just awful. Every day and night we were scared he might come back. Every time we went away we worried about what might face us on our return.

“In the autumn, the police arrested JK. My husband had played a key role in this capture, but not before he had gone through unbelievable stress. He was telephoned at work by someone claiming to be in possession of his lap-top, and offering to sell it back to him. Separately, he found some of his stolen items on E-Bay. The police were able to trace our equipment, and not only catch JK but also several accomplices. But of my lost ‘treasures’, there was sadly no further trace.

One year on

“So here we were, one year later, facing him. As the carefully-facilitated dialogue continued, we asked JK about himself. He had lost his job in Merseyside 25 years ago, and had started couriering drugs, eventually becoming an addict himself. His life rapidly spiralled downhill.

“An RJ Conference always culminates in an Outcome Agreement, and JK’s had seven commitments. One was that he’d keep us updated on his progress. We also suggested he tackle his drugs, get re-united with his now grown-up daughter. And of course, give up thieving.

“We left the prison feeling like a weight had come off our shoulders, I actually found myself smiling on the journey back, as the two of us held hands, going home to our son.”

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Ray and Vi DonovanRay and Vi’s story

Ray and Vi Donovan’s young son was murdered in 2001. Ten years later, they sat down and talked to one of the young men who had killed him.

Ray and Vi Donovan’s son, Chris, was murdered near to their Surrey home. Three teenage boys were convicted and sentenced for the crime soon after. Since then Ray and Vi have devoted their energies to working with other offenders in prisons and to an education programme that they take round schools, churches and community groups.

They had always been keen to get a restorative justice meeting with the young men who killed their son, but had to wait a very long time for it to happen. Eventually in July 2011, Ray and Vi sat down in a room with one of the young men, just after he had completed his eight year prison

“This was the first time we’d set eyes on him in a decade – when we saw him in court he was a boy – now he was a man in his mid twenties.”

An emotional meeting

“We felt calm. We hugged him when he came in to the room. Ray said he was forgiven and he whispered his thanks”, said Vi.

“He then told us that during the first two years of his sentence he didn’t admit to himself that he’d had a hand in killing our son. But then he went on a prison course and said that after that he couldn’t get Chris out of his head. He said that the first thing he’d done on his release was to go to the place the murder happened and put flowers there.

A fifteen year old coward

“He told us that he’d been a fifteen-year-old coward. He acknowledged he’d kicked Chris then left him in the road and run away. That was something we’d waited ten years to hear. He wasn’t at all the person we’d expected to see.

“It was good to tell him what he’d done to us. We then talked about the future and his plans to become an artist. He’d won a prize for art while he was in prison and Ray was able to put him in touch with someone we’d met in the course of our work with offenders who could help develop that.

“That restorative justice meeting made a real difference to us and we are now hoping to have meetings with the other two young men”.

Ray and Vi have set up a trust in their son’s memory which you can read more about on the Chris Donovan Trust website.

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Rachel’s Storyrachel-kemish.jpg (114×142)

Just a few months after Rachel’s house was burgled, she was invited into prison to tell the burglar face to face just how much hurt and harm he’d caused her and her family.

Rachel and her husband Chris got home early one evening in December to find they’d been broken into. The back door had been smashed and they soon found there were several items missing upstairs including some of the contents of Rachel’s jewellery box.

“It was really upsetting. The children were frightened the burglar might come back and we spent Christmas waiting for the door to be fixed.

The offender is caught

“Not long after it happened, the police informed us they’d caught the perpetrator and we got one of the items of jewellery back. I was very glad about that since it has great sentimental value. But we still couldn’t forget about what had happened since our youngest child had become very frightened at nights and needed a lot of reassurance.

An unexpected invitation

“A short while after the burglar had been sentenced we got a phone call from the Restorative Justice team at Sussex Police asking if we’d like to meet him.

“We had a preparation session a week or so before the meeting where we were told what to expect and asked what it was we wanted to say to the burglar.

The prison visit

“I was feeling quite emotional when we got into the room in the prison where the meeting was going to take place.

“When it was my turn to talk I told him how his actions had caused our family such distress. It’s horrible knowing someone’s been in your home. I think I connected to him when I talked about the piece of jewellery he’d taken. He said he was sorry for everything he’d done and the harm he’d caused and I felt very sad for him.

Confidence restored

“I was so glad we met him. It’s taken away all the mystery and given us back our confidence. It has been great to be able to tell our youngest child – the one who was so frightened – that we saw him in prison, that he said sorry and that he cried. It’s stopped her having that terrible image of a scary figure lurking out there.

“Chris and I really thought that we’d got a lot out of it all. We also hope we’ve helped him to turn his back on offending once he’s released. I actually care about what happens to him and we’ve asked the police to keep us in touch.”

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WendyWendy’s story

Wendy Bridge’s brother, Malcolm Benfold, was murdered on Blackpool sea front in January 2007. A young man, Marc, was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for the crime later that year.

In 2012, Wendy watched a Panorama documentary about Restorative Justice called ‘Meet the burglars’, She realised that this was something she wanted to do as she still had questions on her mind about the circumstances that led up to the murder. She contacted the Restorative Justice provider, Remedi who – after several months of separate detailed preparation with Wendy and Marc – arranged for them to meet in the prison where Marc was serving his sentence.

Unanswered questions

“There was so much that had been unsaid. I knew some of the circumstances of Malcolm’s death from the police and from the court proceedings but because Marc changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on the third day of his trial, a lot of the evidence was never heard.

“I wanted to talk to Marc to see if we could fill in the blanks – the questions I still had. I also wanted to see whether he was trying to turn his life around and I wanted to hear about what plans he had for his release. He will be in his forties at the end of his sentence so he still has time to lead a worthwhile life.

The meeting changed everything

“The actual meeting changed everything for me. He came into the room and was shaking, he was absolutely petrified. The last time I’d seen him was in the dock where he came over as aggressive and defiant.

We talked and the weight that I didn’t really realise I’d been carrying came off me. He couldn’t remember killing Malcolm as he’d been in a drunken black out, but he told me what he could.

Then he said he was really sorry for what he’d done and that every day he wished that there was still the death penalty as he would be dead too.

“That made me cross because I didn’t want his life to be wasted too. I want him to turn his life around and I told him that. I asked him to take advantage of everything that’s offered in prison and he said he’d been working on his anger and that he’d gone to literacy and numeracy classes. He was also learning sign language.

I spoke later to a couple of prison officers and they confirmed that he was making good progress. The meeting was so useful and worthwhile. I was very well prepared by the staff at Remedi. They are like friends, but they always remain professional.”

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Viv’s story

Viv Hulland and her husband were awoken during the night by a sound downstairs at her home in Leeds. They went down to find that a young man had broken in through a window. They talked to him for a while before the police arrived and arrested him.

A few months later, Viv asked the police about the fate of the young man. She was told he’d been given a Youth Referral Order (a community sentence often used for first time offenders). She asked if she could have a Restorative Justice meeting with him and he agreed.

“I thought – this isn’t a bad lad, just a daft lad and I wanted to meet him to tell him about the effect his breaking in had had on us.

“It was an upsetting experience and it was made worse by the fact that we had my mother’s funeral that morning. When I told him about that, it seemed to hit him like a sledgehammer.

“He said sorry to me and I think it was a genuine apology. He said he was glad he had a chance to do it in person.

“I said to him that I wanted him to promise me that he’d never do it again to anyone else – that was how he could make it up to me.

“He agreed with that. I was really grateful to have had the opportunity to say it to his face.”

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John’s Story

John Mcgowan is the caretaker at Durham Cathedral.  He lives on site.  One night in November 2013 he became aware of noise on the roof of the Chapter House. He went to investigate and saw that four people had climbed up some scaffolding and were putting themselves in much danger as the roof is very high and there is a steep drop into the river at one side.

John climbed up to encourage them to get down and in the process slipped and hurt his back and arm.  He’d already called 999, and by this time the fire brigade and a police helicopter had arrived.

It turned out that the four people were students at the University who had climbed up as a drunken prank.  They were eventually fined by the University and narrowly avoided being asked to terminate their studies.

One of the Students wrote John a letter to apologise and he eventually met all four of them in a Restorative Justice conference.

“They took every criticism on the chin.  I think they’d learned a huge lesson.  It was a case of stupidity mixed with alcohol.

“The meeting diffused everything.  They are more than sorry and a couple of them now go round to talk to sixth formers about excessive drinking.  One also volunteers at the cathedral.”

Without Restorative Justice,  John says the matter would never have been resolved as effectively.

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Kate’s Story

Kate  Morgan’s daughter. Lona, died after her friend Ian Edwards lost control of the car they were travelling in.  He was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.

“I was pleased that he’d got some sort of punishment but the length of the prison term didn’t matter to me. Twelve days or twelve years, it wouldn’t bring Lona back. Over the next few weeks I realised I still had questions I wanted answers to.”

Kate was offered Restorative Justice by her police victim liason officer who explained how the system worked.

“I felt completely prepared to meet Ian – I knew exactly what to expect and what would happen,” she added.

“What I didn’t know on the day of the meeting was how I was going to react when I saw him – it wasn’t something I could predict.

“I’d had to process what happened as a terrible accident and I accepted that he had not set out that night to kill my daughter.

“Although I’d come to terms with that it was still hard to go to see him.”

Kate saw how remorseful Ian was as soon as she saw him.  His first words were an apology.

He looked her in the eye as he said he would do anything to turn the clock back and he was able to clarify the events of that night from a perspective only he knew.

Kate told him exactly what his actions had done and how many people he had affected.

“The ripples from the death of my daughter went far beyond just the immediate family.

“Losing her so suddenly had wrecked all our lives and I wanted him to know how we all felt. Lona’s sister Ella was only nine when Lona died and she’d been very close to her.”

Although Kate admitted nothing Ian said was a surprise, the meeting put a stop to the “uncertainty and endless questions”.

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