Assault Causing Harm –
Assault Causing Harm
Grace, who was in her late teens, was assaulted in her community on a night out, receiving cuts and bruises. Gardaí were called to the scene where Fiona and Joanne, who were also in their late teens, were arrested. Grace made a statement and Fiona and Joanne were charged. They had no previous convictions. They pleaded guilty to the offence and their local District Court referred the matter to an NGO that delivers restorative justice to be assessed as to its suitability for a restorative approach.
The NGO’s Caseworker met with Grace and her parents to discuss the offence, how it had affected them and what they would like to see happen next. At this meeting, they were invited to participate to whatever extent they felt comfortable. The Caseworker also met Fiona and Joanne separately. At these meetings, they both expressed remorse, took full responsibility for what had happened, and expressed a willingness to make amends and apologise.
Grace explained that she did not know Fiona and Joanne. She felt that a lot of time had passed following the assault before it was referred for restorative justice. She and her parents were angry at the delay and had been fearful of meeting Fiona and Joanne again. They did not wish to meet now as part of the restorative process as Grace did not wish to be identified to Fiona and Joanne. However, she was happy to see Fiona and Joanne participate in a reparation panel and for her views and desired reparation to form a crucial part of the discussion. The reparation panel was discussed as an opportunity for her to have a say in what happened. Grace wished to see Fiona and Joanne learn how their actions had affected her, to undertake some work in the community, to write an apology and to repay €100 Grace paid in GP expenses.
Based on Grace’s feelings and the fact that Fiona and Joanne took responsibility and expressed willingness to make amends, the case was considered suitable to proceed to a reparation panel.
The Caseworker convened separate panel meetings for Fiona and Joanne. A local Garda and two community volunteers, who were trained to participate in restorative meetings, also attended. At their panel meetings, Fiona and Joanne were asked to explain what happened, who had been affected by their actions and how. Grace’s views and those of her parents were presented by the Caseworker, and the Garda gave an account of what had happened.
Fiona and Joanne expressed that they were extremely sorry for what happened and ashamed to have caused such distress. The community volunteers contributed by discussing the impact of the offence on Grace, her parents and the wider community. The impact of alcohol on these and similar offences was also discussed.
Fiona and Joanne were asked what needed to happen next in relation to the offence and they agreed (separate) actions to make amends. They each agreed the following:
- Write a letter of apology to Grace.
- Repay €50 each to Grace for her financial losses (€100 in total) resulting from the assault, and €50 each to a charity that Grace nominated.
- Volunteer for 35 hours in their local community.
- Meet with Drug and Alcohol Services for an assessment, education and/or counselling, as deemed appropriate by the service provider.
During an agreed period, Fiona and Joanne completed all of the tasks. The NGO’s Caseworker stayed in contact with Grace and her parents to keep them informed of the progress. Grace received the financial compensation, confirmation of both charitable donations and the letters of apology. Fiona volunteered her time in a charity bookshop raising money for a community hall, while Joanne helped at a resource centre in a local housing estate. A report was provided to the District Court detailing the restorative process, the agreement that was reached and the reparative tasks that Fiona and Joanne undertook. Following consideration by the Judge, the matter was finalised in Court by means of a Peace Bond imposed on both Fiona and Joanne.
Following the completion of the matter in Court, the NGO’s Caseworker liaised with all the parties to communicate the outcome and to discuss their experiences. Grace and her parents reported satisfaction with the process, the opportunity to participate, to have a say and to feel heard.
Grace said: “It was a good result for both parties, us and the people who did the crime. […] They had to talk it out and I think all the things they’ve done, like the apology and stuff, is important. Seeing that someone cared about what I was saying and feeling important helped. […] Originally, I thought I wanted them to go to prison but, in the end, this worked out better for them and for us. […] I think if they had just gone to prison, I wouldn’t feel better about it, whereas I do now.”
Fiona and Joanne were satisfied that the reparative actions had been fair and that they had been given an opportunity to apologise. Fiona said: “We got to apologise and tell her that we were sorry. If we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t have got the chance to say that. You come and tell your side of the story – what happened and how you put it right – and then you also hear about [Grace]. I feel better because I got to apologise and actually know what I did wrong. It took a weight off my shoulders because you know that you put things right.”
Joanne said: “[It] opens your eyes to ‘my god, like I actually made [Grace] feel like that’ and I felt like, that’s terrible to do that to another girl. I learned all that. I don’t ever want to be that person again. Doing this you admit from the very start that you’re wrong which I think is a nice thing too. In Court you can chance saying ‘not guilty’ and hope for the best, but what have you learned from that?”