By Lucy Summers | Posted: Thursday November 22, 2018
One of the services we offer is Restorative Justice, which is the process of bringing together victims of crime and their offenders to discuss the impact of the crime, repair the harm and find a positive way forward.
The recent New Zealand Restorative Justice Week focused on showcasing the Restorative Justice process and how it offers victims the chance to be heard, gets answers to questions and provides a sense of closure. It also gives offenders a chance to face up to the impact of their behaviour, and through this, can help to reduce reoffending.
For Chris, an offender who recently took part in Restorative Justice following a car accident, the process offered him an important opportunity to say sorry to the victim.
Chris was driving down an overbridge and he reached a give-way junction. He paused, looked, and then accelerated across the road. "I didn’t see him until he hit the bonnet. My son was in the passenger seat and he said, "Dad!" just before we hit the cyclist – my son saw him but I didn't. So I had gone through the give way sign and failed to give way. I was pretty shaken up to know that I had done that. It wasn’t a very nice situation."
Chris went on to describe what happened next. "The vicitim did a full flip in the air, like a cartwheel, over the bonnet, and landed on his feet and then fell onto his knees and sort of crawled off the road onto the grassy verge on the corner. I put my handbrake on and left my car on the road and jumped out with my son and we went to help the cyclist. He wasn't in a good way. Other people then stopped to help with blankets. The cyclist was coming in and out of consciousness and then an ambulance and the police arrived. They breath tested me and took a statement. It was overwhelming really."
Chris said that afterwards, he tried to get in touch with the victim via the police because he wanted to give him some grocery or petrol vouchers to try to help him out because of what had happened, but the police couldn't pass on the victim's details.
So when the Restorative Justice option came up Chris said he was happy to do it straight away. "I didn’t realise that it was something that you could do. I thought it would be a good thing and would have liked to do it sooner if we could have."
When asked how he found the process, Chris said, "The facilitator was really good – he said it was a completely voluntarily process, and he talked me through what was going to happen. When we met with the victim, he was really understanding. It was good to talk to him and apologise, and for him to see that it affected me quite a bit. It was my fault and I failed to give way and I hurt him. It definitely brought me some closure."
He also mentioned how forgiving the victim was. "He said that he did not want me to lose my licence. I have recently started up my own business and my vehicle is pretty critical for what I am doing."
"So yeah, it was good to deal with it. Very pleased that I did it. Good to get a bit of closure and meet the victim. I would definitely recommend Restorative Justice. We really appreciate the service you provide."
To find out more about Restorative Justice call 0800 FAM CARE (03 477 0801). Please note that all referrals to this service come through the court system.