This case came to the Essex Restorative and Mediation Service more than 10 years after the incident. The parents of a murder victim were seeking answers as to why their child had lost their life and had been unable to obtain those answers up until this point. They were hoping a restorative approach might help.

The victim’s parents knew that their child had been involved in an altercation and been stabbed. The 2 people responsible had been arrested, and despite pleading not guilty both were sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 18 years.

Despite the police investigation and the trial, the victim’s parents were left with several unanswered questions: –

  • Why was their child at the location where they lost their life?
  • Had their child gone there to meet someone – if so, who was it?
  • Was alcohol involved?
  • Were drugs involved?
  • Had this been about criminal activity?

Some 14 years after the trial, the victim’s parents were still seeking answers to their questions. Following a referral by the Probation Service, the Essex Restorative and Mediation Service were called in to see how they could help. Approaches were made to both the parents and the people responsible for their child’s death to establish if they would talk to the appointed Restorative Justice Facilitators.

Both the parents and one of the offenders, X, (who was still in prison) agreed to participate. X, after having served more than a decade in prison, had begun a programme of rehabilitation. They had completed a degree in Psychology and lectured to fellow prisoners on the dangers of knife crime.

The Facilitators were fully aware of the incredible sensitivities that surrounded the case. Much time was spent by the Facilitators talking to the parents about what they were seeking from the process; time was also spent talking to X about how prepared they were to give answers to the questions being asked. It was established that communication would be by letter and that an apology for the crime was unwanted; the parents were seeking answers to their questions and nothing else. This preparatory work took several months and kept in mind the sensitivities for both sides.

A six-page letter was duly written and revealed the answers that the parents were looking for. They learnt that this information hadn’t come out during the trial because X was afraid that if it had been revealed their children would have been taken into care. With the passing of time this became less relevant and that is why X was prepared to reveal the truth at this stage.

The parents were delighted that they had answers to the questions they had been asking and, whilst this would never bring closure to the death of their child, it gave them a degree of comfort that they had, at last, learnt the truth surrounding their death.

Restorative Justice is principally about seeking answers for the victims and getting the offender to take responsibility and understand the harm they may have cause.  In this case, Restorative Justice undoubtedly succeeded.