Open and Transparent Quality Mark 2016/17 and 2017/18

Brave women faced the careless drivers who ruined their lives

In her latest blog, Alison talks about Make Amends and how restorative justice benefits communities.

Looking after victims of crime is one of a Police and Crime Commissioner’s principal responsibilities. Providing high quality support to victims of crime through services like the Devon and Cornwall Victim Care Unit is fundamental to a caring society and reduces the impact of crime.

One of the services I commission for victims of crime in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is restorative justice. In its simplest form this enables victims of crime to be in contact with the person who committed the crime against them. The process allows victims to explain the impact of an incident on them and their families and to understand some of the reasons someone might have for offending.

The team at Make Amends – the charity that delivers restorative justice in the force area – often go far further than that, supporting the victim through court appearances and even helping to broker financial offers of compensation long after a sentence has been served.

One brave woman who has been talking about her experience to mark Restorative Justice Awareness Week (which runs until Sunday) is Jane Ure, whose son Will was tragically killed in a collision in East Devon.

Will was just 17, with dreams of training to be a boatbuilder, when he was passenger in a car that came off the road and hit a tree while being driven by former work colleague 30-year-old Richard Weldon. While Richard was seriously injured, tragically the collision proved fatal for Will.

Richard admitted causing death by careless driving and received his official punishment via a suspended sentence at Exeter Crown Court, but Jane was left with feelings of anger and several unanswered questions about the incident that devastated her family.

Restorative justice is not for everyone but for many people it can help to reduce feelings of isolation, powerlessness or anxiety. Make Amends organised a meeting between Jane and Richard at which she was able to describe the impact of losing her son, while Richard was able to offer a face-to-face apology for the carelessness that caused so much harm.

Nothing can take away the distress and trauma of being a victim of crime – especially one as devastating as Richard’s. But this process has helped Jane, and countless others, feel that they are supported as they rebuild their lives.

The restorative justice team are also helping to realise positive benefits for communities in the South West too. Another participant, North Cornwall resident Frances Kent, is in the process of working with her local council to build a community centre in her daughter Catherine Bailey’s memory. Among those who have indicated they will contribute is Jonathan Kane, the London businessman who caused her death by dangerous driving while rushing to catch a train.

The Make Amends team have supported Frances and her family through a restorative justice process and are still on hand to help negotiate this settlement.

The support the Restorative Justice team provide will never make up for these families’ losses but both Frances and Jane say that the process has reduced some of the negative effects that these tragic events have had on them.

The process is entirely voluntary on both sides and either the victim or culprit can withdraw at any time. Victims are supported through the process by experienced and qualified practitioners who talk them through the options available. Meetings take place in neutral locations and are well supervised. If a meeting is not appropriate then indirect contact, such as letter writing or a recorded message, can be a solution.

If you have been a victim of crime then Restorative Justice might be a solution to help you get back on track. It’s available to victims of a wide range of incidents, from relatively minor thefts to the most severe crimes imaginable.

If you have been a victim of crime and want help and advice on restorative justice or any number of other services for victims then please get in touch with the Victim Care Unit online at victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk or call them on 01392 475900. Lines are open from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday and from 9am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Alison Hernandez