Restorative justice: ‘She gave me a nice shiner but I didn’t want her to go to jail’

Man attacked by 17-year-old girl gives his view on restorative justice programme

‘I could see her in court. She looked quite frightened. I didn’t want her to go to jail.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

‘I could see her in court. She looked quite frightened. I didn’t want her to go to jail.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Brian was walking by Smithfield Square in Dublin with his girlfriend when he was randomly attacked and given a “shiner” by a 17-year-old girl.

He was shocked and a little shaken but did not require medical treatment and did not wish to see the girl go to prison. It was the perfect case for the kind of restorative justice which, according to the most recent statistics, appears to be falling out of favour with gardaí.

“It was around 10 o’clock. We had just picked up a takeaway nearby the Cobblestone. A girl asked for a cigarette. We said ‘no, we don’t smoke’. Then she went to try and hit my girlfriend.

“I got in the way. I couldn’t hit her back because two of her mates who were blokes started running towards me,” the media researcher said.

“She hit me a couple of times. She was absolutely demented on drink or drugs. She was able to give a fair whack. She gave me a nice shiner but I didn’t need to go to doctor.”

The next day Brian (not his real name) called into gardaí at the Bridewell station to report the matter, where he learned the teenager had already been picked up for another offence.

Pleaded guilty

When the case got to court, the girl pleaded guilty and Brian agreed to take part in a restorative justice programme. Gardaí told Brian this would involve either meeting his attacker or receiving a letter from her. He opted for the letter.

“I could see her in court. She looked quite frightened. I didn’t want her to go to jail.”

He was quite impressed with the letter he received from the teenager. “The handwriting was very good, that struck me. It looked like she put some effort into it. She seemed sincere.”

Brian believes his experience shows the benefits of restorative justice for relatively minor offences. It gives a sense of closure to the victim and allows them to feel their voice has been heard.

“It was an absolutely worthwhile thing. If she was just given the Probation Act and told not to do it again, I would have been like: ‘is that all?’ I thought it was very appropriate for this type of incident.”

The restorative justice process compares favourably to Brian’s other experience with the justice system. A few years later, a wheel was stolen off his bicycle. A teenager was later arrested.

When Brian later inquired what happened to the boy, he was told he was dealt with by way of juvenile caution. “I asked if I’ll get the wheel of my bike back. The guard told me ‘ah well, he says it’s gone.’”