Losing a family member in a collision is heart-breaking; it affects people in many different ways and everyone has different ways of coping.
While some people are able to move forward by seeing an offender go to prison, that is not always the case – and for some people they often have many unanswered questions.
One process that can people move forward is Restorative Justice, a process which brings the victim of crime and offender in the case together, enabling them to communicate, giving the victim a chance to be heard and tell the offender how their actions have affected them.
The process is totally voluntary, both for the victim and the offender, and is available to anyone who has been a victim of crime. Cheshire’s restorative justice services are provided by Remedi UK, which is funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire David Keane.
The process also helps the victims to gain an understanding of the offenders thought process and gain answers to questions that often burden them long after the crime has been committed, helping them to find a positive way forward.
David said: “Victims are at the heart of everything we do and I want to ensure that they all have access to all of the services and support that they need.
"Restorative justice puts victims at the centre of the criminal justice system; it gives them a voice and allows them to have their questions answered. The process is invaluable, and for some people they can only move forward with their lives once they have had their questions answered.
“In my opinion there is no doubt that restorative justice can support victims to gain closure on their distressing experiences, whilst at the same time changing an offender’s behaviour.”
An example of how restorative justice can help people move forward following fatal collisions is the case of Helen, who used restorative justice following the death of her mum in a crash in 2013.
In her case the offender, Michael, pleaded guilty to death by dangerous driving and was given a six-year-sentence. However, the guilty plea and prison sentence was not enough and she was still unable to move forward with her life.
Helen said: “Following the trial I thought that Michael’s sentencing might bring some closure, maybe all the thoughts and questions that I had would go away. But they didn’t, I just kept thinking about the circumstances of the crash that killed my mum.
“As the thoughts continued, I also started to have bad dreams. Being a nurse I know exactly what happens to people with the type of injuries that she sustained. It just haunted me; I just kept having the same thoughts.
“Twelve months after Michael’s sentencing, the thoughts and questions were still enduring and, to make it worse, I received a call telling me that he was being moved from a closed prison to an open prison. I just couldn’t understand why, was he a reformed character? What had he done to deserve only spending one year in closed prison when my mum was dead?
“My dreams continued and I kept going over in my mind what could have happened, putting myself in my mum’s position. Did she say anything when she saw the car coming towards her? Did she survive the impact? Was she in any pain?
“Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and meet with Michael so I could try and find out why he did what he did. I met him at Thorn Cross Prison in Warrington, in a Restorative Justice meeting that was organised by my case officer Julie who works for Remedi.
“I remember going into the meeting, I was so nervous, I was about to speak to the man who killed my mum – but it was something I had to do. I needed answers to all the questions that were running through my mind and in my dreams, and he was the only person that could give me the answers.
“Before the meeting I was close to going to the doctors as I felt that I couldn’t cope with the anger and grief. But having spoken to Michael, I now have the answers to all those questions and I’ve been able to let go of the anger and actually grieve for my mum, like a normal person experiences grief."
Anyone who has been a victim of crime and is interested in finding out more about restorative justice call 0800 640 6466 or email [email protected] or [email protected]. More information in the restorative justice section on our website.