Restorative Justice between neighbours
Restorative Justice gave a woman in her fifties the chance to explain the impact of her neighbours actions.
In September 2017, a male in his thirties was arrested for indecent exposure. Mike* had exposed himself to his next door neighbour Susan* whilst she was around his flat to support him. He was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and his neighbour was trying to help him through his on-going problems. Mike was hospitalised for two weeks after the incident as a result of the drug and alcohol abuse. This case was referred by a Met Police officer to Restore:London following a request from Susan.
Once Restore:London picked up the case, we held initial, separate meetings with both parties. During the first visit with Susan*, she told us about the impact of the incident and outlined what questions she would like to ask her neighbour. She was also really keen to give him an opportunity to apologise, so both of them could begin move on from what had happened.
The incident had had a big impact on Susan’s life. It had left her feeling sick and terrified of bumping into Mike, and she would double-check her surroundings before leaving and entering the flat due to her fear. When we spoke to Mike, he also echoed the same fears and was also worried about bumping into her. It was clear that Mike was ashamed of what he had done and was very remorseful. He had already written a letter of apology on his own, and considered passing this on to Susan to apologise for what had happened. He held back from posting the letter because he was worried about how it would be received.
After further meetings with both parties separately, Restore:London decided that going the restorative justice face-to-face meeting would be safe.
In December 2017, both parties met through the restorative justice process which was facilitated by a Restore:London Practitioner and Volunteer Practitioner. Susan arrived earlier, as agreed, so the practitioners could go through the restorative questions again and to make her feel comfortable with the environment. Mike arrived shortly afterwards which was when the meeting began.
They were both informed of the general rules before starting the conference. Susan responded to questions as to the impact of the incident on her, her day- to- day life and her family. Initially, she was ‘shocked, upset, physically sick, withdrawn, depressed and had difficulty sleeping’ following the incident. Her responses were articulate and heartfelt and she read out a letter that her two children had written showing how frightened they were for their mother’s safety. She also explained that she had ‘shut down’ after the incident and was finding it difficult to communicate with her kids, her sisters and particularly her boyfriend and this had caused major problems. She felt helpless and was not able to move on as her fear of the harmer was so great. She explained that her initial feelings to Mike were maternal, and she’d wanted to help him in his distressed state. She said this incident wouldn’t change her attitude to helping people in general.
Mike said it was very painful to hear the impact he had had on his neighbour, and that he understood that what he’d done was ‘terrible’ but he had to accept it. He was especially distressed when he heard she wanted to move home as a result of his actions because she had been there a long time. He stressed it was hard for him to know how threatened both she and her children felt. He said he felt ‘‘disgusted, disappointed, ashamed and embarrassed" of himself, and he gave Susan a long letter he had written straight after the incident. She read it and said, "thank you for writing that".
Both parties agreed they wanted to draw a line under the incident and that it would be a hello/goodbye relationship in the future. Susan suggested that Mike makes contact with a therapist to look specifically at his behaviour as a result of alcohol and drug abuse. His response was, "I want you to know I’ll do anything to make you feel comfortable, I ‘m not against you and not an enemy; I want to be a good neighbour".
Post Conference follow-up
Both parties said they were nervous at the beginning of the meeting, however they felt it was the right thing to do. Susan said she felt empowered and good, and that a lot was achieved through this process. She said she was glad the police referred her to Restore:London, and that it was the best possible options he could have pursued. Mike also stated this was the best option for both of them seeing as they live right next to each other. He hoped the meeting was good for Susan also.