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Case Histories

 

Looked after Childrens Home -Resolve and repair project

 

Case involving L.

 

What follows is a description of the case concerning L and a Residential Care Home in Bristol. I have copied the report, which went back to the Court after the Restorative Meeting had taken place, at the end of this piece.

 

L had been charged with Criminal Damage at the Residential Care Home and the Court had agreed to adjourn the hearing while the RJ process was being tried. The charge involved two incidents where L has become very angry and had thrown a piece of furniture and a plant and thumped the office door, breaking a window in that door.

 

Following referral by the Court, two mediators made an appointment to meet with L to talk about the case and make an assessment about suitability for RJ. When we arrived at the Home, we were told that he was still in bed and was refusing to come down to meet us. While we were there members of staff described what had happened and also gave us the names of those members of staff who were on duty at the time of the offences (staff had experienced varying degrees of anxiety during and after the incident.)

 

We also learned that L was to be moving to live with a foster carer in the next few days.

 

I was able to obtain the contact details for the foster carer (Mr C) and phoned him a week later to see if we could visit L at his new home. This was arranged. I also contacted (by phone) the two residential care workers who had been on duty when the offences were committed. They both expressed a desire to meet with L if it could be arranged.

 

When we arrived at his foster home, L was still getting up and while we waited were able to explain to Mr C our purpose in coming and what the Court expected from the process.

From him we heard that he had fostered several teenage boys (another boy was being fostered and had been with him for two years). It was clear that he was very caring and supportive to the young people but his message was that the only they could make a difference and turn things round.

 

Eventually L came down. It was not a promising meeting. L was unresponsive and did not seem willing to communicate. He did say that he understood what we were about but was not sure he wanted to meet the staff members. It was all rather long ago and he thought he had already said sorry.

 

Our assessment was that it was probably rather soon after L had moved into this new situation. It had only been a matter of two days and it seemed a lot for him to take in. He might need time to think about everything before making a final decision. His foster carer said he would talk with L about the pros and cons of taking part in a meeting. I promised to phone at the end of that week to find out his decision.

 

In the mean time I had several lengthy phone conversations with the two workers (D B and D W) from the Residential Home. Both had made full statements to the Police. They were very keen to talk with L: to find out if he was aware of the impact on them as individuals and on other residents and to ask him various questions about his behaviour.

 

When I phoned Mr C he said that L was still anxious about the meeting but now understood what the Court was offering him – a chance to repair some of the harm he had caused which might result in no further action – and he had agreed to take part in a meeting. Although I did not speak with L himself, I felt confident, from what we had seen of Mr C., that there would have been no coercion. This was borne out at the meeting.

 

It was a further two weeks before a meeting was arranged when everyone could be present. At the last minute, my co-mediator was unable to come and another colleague, after a full briefing, agreed to attend.

 

On the appointed day everyone arrived promptly. L came accompanied by Mr C. After the usual formalities and explanations, I asked L what he remembered of the two events and how he felt about it. He said that he had been very angry about an issue of travel money and had started throwing things and punching the office door window until it broke. He said he regretted what he had done.

 

I then asked D and D if this was how they remembered it all. They both talked directly to L agreed with what he had said but also added other details – particularly about how others had reacted to events and the affect on other residents - eg not being able to use the lounge while repairs were done. However they also wanted L to know that they remembered the times when he was not angry and to say that he had many good qualities so that it was really painful for them to have to call the police.

 

Mr C then asked to say something. He reminded L about the discussions they had had about going to college and learning a trade. However, talking directly to L, he said that it was all in L’s own hands. No one else could turn things round – it would be up to L himself. He said he had made it clear that he would do everything necessary to support him – but only L could make the changes and they needed to happen sooner than later.

 

L said he understood this. He then talked directly to D and D. Again he said he regretted what he had done and was sorry. They agreed that he had never tried to make excuses or shift the blame and accepted that he was taking responsibility for the harm and damage he had done.

 

I then asked what could be done to repair that harm. D and D said that going back to the Home to do some work was not appropriate – it would be a backward step. They felt that if L committed himself to his college course and took responsibility for his future they would feel that this meeting had been worth while. They wanted L to write to them regularly over the next year to keep them informed of his progress. Mr C said he would support L in doing this.

 

D and D agreed that a report be sent to the Court with a request that no further action be taken in relation to this offence. They were willing to sign the report.

 

What stays with me about this particular case is the change we saw in L over the period of this process – from a morose uncommunicative and unco-operative lad to someone willing to engage fully in the meeting and take responsibility for what he had done. Although the RJ process gave him an opportunity to display this there was no doubt in my mind that the caring and stable relationship developing with his Foster Carer was key to this.

 

 

 

Report from Resolve and Repair Team

Youth Court Date: ***2006

Name of young person before court: L

Report Date: ***/2006

 

Offences: 1. Criminal Damage (date)

 

Introduction.

This report contains information regarding the above offences. This is not a PSR, but an update that will inform the court on whether Restorative Justice interventions have been successful in resolving issues relating to the offence above.

The period since referral to the Resolve and Repair service has involved a visit to the residential unit to establish who were the key victims and then assessment of both victims and offender. The meeting with L took place shortly after he had moved from the Residential Unit, to live with his Foster Carer, R C. A face to face meeting between two victims and L took place on Monday, 27th February.

 

Restorative Justice process

L found the initial meeting difficult. He was not very communicative and was reticent about meeting the victims. He felt that he had said sorry and it was all ‘rather long ago’. Our assessment was that he was still in the process of settling into a new foster home and needed time to reconsider. His foster carer agreed to talk it through and encourage L to take part in the RJ process.

 

A number of lengthy phone conversations with several members of staff at the Unit led us to identify two particular residential care workers who had been most affected by the offences. The were both very keen to meet with L.

 

The face to face meeting proved to be very productive. L engaged fully with whole process. He accepted responsibility for the offences and stated that he regretted losing his temper and behaving in such a destructive way. He was able to identify the key issues that had led him to behave as he did.

 

D B and D W described to L the affect that his offences had had on them and also on others at the Home. They were both at pains to say that L had many good qualities and having to call the police had caused them personal anguish. D B said that L had shown regret almost immediately after the incident and she had been impressed that he had not made excuses.

 

R C commented that over these last weeks he had discussed the offence and other behaviour with L and had stressed that only L could turn things round and it needed to happen sooner rather than later. RC said that he would do all he could to support him. L said that he understood this.

 

In considering how the harm done by L should be repaired both D and D did not favour returning to the Residential Unit to do reparation work. They reasoned that time had elapsed, there had been changes in staff and it would be a backward step. They felt strongly that the best thing for them would be that L take personal responsibility for his future, commit himself to the education/vocational programmes that were being offered and that for the next year he keep them informed of his progress. They asked that he write to them regularly reporting what he was doing and what he had achieved.

 

We were impressed at the change we witnessed in L’s willingness to engage with us over the course of the process, his openness about his offences and the obvious impact that his developing relationship with his new carer was having on him.

 

Both of the victims (D B and D W) involved in this process support the request that no further action be taken against him.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Signed

 

Mediators and Victims

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