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7th October 2015

Cabbie meets attacker in Restorative Justice

TAXI driver Mohammed came face-to-face with the man who robbed him at knifepoint as part of a process called Restorative Justice.

Matthew, aged 22, was sentenced to 12 months in custody following the attack, in which he demanded the cabbie hand over his cash.

Restorative Justice (RJ) helps victims by giving them the chance to ask the questions they want answered, and helps offenders by confronting them with impact of their actions.

The men were encouraged to participate in a Restorative Justice conference by Susy Barnes, a probation officer for the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC).

Matthew, who had never previously been in serious trouble, committed the robbery after being on a night out. He had recently learned that his mum had been diagnosed with incurable cancer, and he was drunk.

He said: “I’m a bad drunk, that’s why I hardly ever drink. I called for a taxi, gave my name, and paid Mohammed a tenner upfront.

“During the drive I got chatting about my mum. I could feel my mood change. I’m not justifying anything, but I was angry and upset and I wanted to take it out on someone.

“I was ashamed about what I did the instant I’d done it. As I ran away, I told Mohammed to call the police.”

Police knocked on Matthew’s door two-weeks after the incident.

He said: “It was my own fault, so I have to deal with the consequences.

“What makes it worse is that I knew what Mohammed must have felt like because I’d been the victim of knife crime. That’s why I carried a knife. Nothing about the attack was premeditated.”

Matthew, who has now successfully completed his prison licence, served four months in jail and eight months on curfew. Offenders are encouraged to write letters apologising for the offence, and – if appropriate – the letters can be sent to the victim.

Mohammed said: “Once Matthew was convicted and sentenced I thought that justice had been served and it would be the end of it. I thought Restorative Justice was a strange idea when I was contacted by Susy and my first fear was that he would attack me again.

“But I thought that if I put in a little bit of effort and it helps the person change his life, then that would be a wonderful thing. I am a part of this community and working to make it safer is to everyone’s benefit – including mine.”

The conference is structured so that both participants ask their questions via a facilitator. Susy worked to ensure that participants felt as relaxed as possible.

Mohammed said: “You hear stories about people going to jail and back again, but I could tell when I met Matthew that he had learned from his mistake and I said it was good that he’s now really concentrating on looking after his mum.

“I asked him why he’d done what he did. He was very apologetic. I wasn’t nervous because Susy had explained the whole process to me.”

RJ gave Mohammed the chance to tell Matthew exactly how the incident had impacted on him.

Mohammed said: “I felt numb when he pulled the knife. It’s the second time it’s happened to me, so it had a big impact. I stopped driving nights and that’s tough because day-time driving is a nightmare because of the traffic.”

Matthew added: “I was worried before I met Mohammed. I’d done my time, but I thought RJ might be good for him, and help him put it behind him.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life. For Mohammed to walk through that door and to meet the person who had robbed him at knifepoint… it blew me away. I’ve got a huge regard for him. He is a top bloke.

“When I saw him I felt so ashamed. The first thing he did was to come over and shake my hand, and to ask how my mother was progressing.

“We both discussed how we felt that night and its impact on us. Once we’d talked about everything, we even had a laugh and a joke. I think we all got something out of it.”

Susy said: “The evidence shows that RJ is extremely effective both in terms of stopping re-offending and in giving victims an opportunity to get closure.

“The RJ conference that Matthew and Mohammed participated in was intense, emotional and successful.

“Matthew is a really up-beat young man who says RJ has changed his life and that he was ‘buzzing’ after meeting Mohammed. His mum has also seen the change in him, and that has given her a real boost.”

The conference was co-facilitated by CGM CRC’s Jo Downs.

Mohammed said: “I think Restorative Justice is very worthwhile and would strongly encourage other victims to seize the opportunity if they get the chance.”

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