Mum shares her experience of restorative justice after Hastings attack

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A mum whose son was attacked in his Hastings home has shared her experience of the restorative justice process to mark International Restorative Justice (RJ) week.

Susy’s son was attacked in his own home and because of RJ, Susy was able to meet face-to-face with her son’s attacker.

This May, Susy met the man who attacked her son, Peter, in his home in Hastings in 2011. Peter, who was 30 at the time, had been living in Hastings and bumped into Joe, an acquaintance, in town. After stealing alcohol, Joe forced himself into Peter’s home where he refused to leave and attacked him. After two days he left.

Concerned she hadn’t heard from her son, Susy went to visit him two days later.

She said: “I found his flat totally destroyed and Peter curled up in bed covered with blood; he had a deep cut to his face. He hadn’t been able to call for help himself.”

Susy was left feeling devastated after what happened to her son but things have taken a turn for the better since the attack.

“It has meant I was able to get the help for Peter he really needed. He now lives near me in Brighton in supported living and we were able to get him diagnosed as being autistic. What was a real tragedy has turned into a positive.”

Susy was approached last year about taking part in restorative justice after the offender made contact through the prison service where he was serving his sentence. Because of his autism Peter wasn’t able to take part in restorative justice, but Susy was keen to participate.

“I was surprised and curious about being approached. The process has been taken very carefully. I met the facilitators four or five times before I met Joe in prison and that was so good for me.

“I felt like it was important for him to know how it had impacted us as a family. I wanted him to face me and see I was an ordinary person; it made a difference to how I felt, how we felt.

“That’s what you learn with life, it’s not black and white. The process was about how I felt and about how we felt as a family, how it impacted all of us.

“It was an experience going into prison. I was shocked when I met Joe about how bright and articulate he was. If the world had been a different place for him, his life would be very different. He was deeply remorseful for what he’d done to Peter. You can’t fake that.

“Almost from the first conversation it was about making a difference for Joe. He wanted me to punish him, but for me it wasn’t about that – he’s in prison, that’s enough punishment. I felt meeting him very moving.”

Susy said the restorative justice process really worked for her and would suggest anyone consider it as an option.

“Don’t make a decision quickly, have the conversations, meet the facilitators. For me it was the right decision and I would recommend it.”

Since meeting Joe in May 2017, Susy has been exchanging letters with him and hopes he turns his life around once he’s out of prison.

“I said to him make a difference to your life, you’re responsible for making that difference. I have hope. The process of meeting him has given me hope.”

• Sussex Police has changed the names of everyone in the story to protect their identity.