A scheme that brings victims of crime face to face with the offenders is helping to change lives for the better, it has today been claimed.
Hardened criminals have been brought to tears by the experience of meeting the people they have wronged, according to the man in charge of restorative justice on the Fylde coast.
The voluntary scheme, which sees victims go into prisons to meet offenders, is something Lancashire Police is keen to promote as it works to support those affected by crime.
Phil Cawley, restorative justice coordinator on the Fylde coast, said although it is often seen as a “soft punishment”, bringing victims and criminals face to face is proving very effective in some cases.
He said: “To see this offender, who has got a fair amount of history, shrinking into his chair and break into tears, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”
After 30 years as a police officer, he has spent the last two and a half years working in restorative justice.
“Our best results are very much with the victims,” he said. “In terms of changing offenders’ behaviour, I’m sure it does in some cases but not in all.
“There is a lot of satisfaction for the victims.”
He said one woman whose home was burgled was pleased to get the chance to “have her say” and does not regret the experience – even though the offender was back in prison within weeks of being released.
“It’s that chance for the victim to tell the offender exactly how it has affected them,” he said. “When they see the upset or the anger it has caused, it has a real impact.
“There has been more offenders break down in tears than victims.
“It’s that coming face to face with somebody you have caused so much harm to.”
He said victims often go into the prisons looking for answers that the offenders are able to give them.
Mr Cawley added: “They have usually got a story to tell.
“By the time I take the victim into the prison, that person is probably clean of drink and drugs and has had time to reflect.”
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “I want victims to know they have a voice and they will be listened to – and I also want them to be able to get the answers to their questions about what has happened to them which they deserve.
“Restorative justice is an important tool in ensuring that happens. It forms a key part of my victims’ and witnesses’ strategy, and so far I have contributed £5,000 toward developing more Community Restorative Justice Panels across Lancashire.”