Criminal Damage –
Criminal damage costing in the region of €4,000 was carried out to a minority church. The church members were very upset by the offence. Tom, who was in his late teens, pleaded guilty to his involvement in the damage. He had no previous convictions, and the District Court referred the matter to an NGO that delivers restorative justice to be assessed as to its suitability for a restorative approach.
The Caseworker met Tom, who expressed remorse for what happened. Tom took responsibility for his role, but felt that this was difficult for him because the others involved in the incident were no longer in the country. The importance of accepting responsibility as a key component of restorative justice was discussed. Tom ultimately accepted his role in committing the damage, and expressed willingness to make amends and apologise.
The Caseworker met Reverend John on behalf of the church community to discuss the offence, how it had affected them and what they would like to see happen next. Revd. John was invited to participate to whatever extent he felt comfortable. He explained that, for some of the church members, the incident made them feel isolated in the community and caused a lot of hurt and mistrust. Older church members expressed feeling particularly vulnerable. He expressed his willingness to meet with Tom to discuss what happened and consider a way forward.
The case was considered suitable to proceed for victim-offender mediation as Tom expressed his remorse and willingness to meet John and make reparation, while John also expressed his satisfaction for matters to proceed as such. Following a number of preparation meetings with both parties, the Caseworker organised and facilitated a meeting between Tom and Revd. John.
At the mediation, Revd. John explained the impact of the offence on members of the church and spoke of the hurt and their feelings of vulnerability and isolation. Tom acknowledged his actions and recognised their impact on members of the church community. He apologised and expressed his remorse and regret. The amount of alcohol consumed by Tom that night was also discussed. John and Tom reached an agreement as to how Tom could begin to make reparation. The terms of the agreement reached were as follows:
- It was agreed that Tom would meet with John and another church member a couple of weeks later to apologise and contribute to the preparations for an annual celebratory service in the church.
- Revd. John felt that it was important for Tom to learn from what had happened, and to be more conscious of impulsivity and where it can lead to poor decisions. Tom agreed to undertake some written work to consider what he had learned from what happened.
- Tom agreed to continue saving towards compensation that was directed by the Court.
Some weeks later, the Caseworker facilitated a follow up meeting at the church. Tom met Revd. John and a lay member of the church who represented the wider church community. He was shown around the church, before donating flower displays for the celebratory service and apologising again to those present. Tom also completed his reflective written work and gave compensation as directed by the Court.
A report was provided to the District Court detailing the process, the agreement reached and reparative tasks undertaken. Following consideration by the Judge, the matter was finalised in Court by means of Section 1(1) of the Probation Act, and no further sanction was imposed. The NGO’s Caseworker then liaised with both parties to advise of the outcome and discuss their experiences. Revd. John expressed satisfaction with the process.
John said: “Thank you so much for the visit to [the] church. The two superb bunches of flowers brought by [Tom] and accompanied by his kind and thoughtful words, his courteous manner and interest in the church impressed not only myself but [church member] especially. We both feel he is the sort of young man that could do so well in life and hope that this incident be put behind him and every opportunity be given for him to succeed in life. Just to affirm that we fully accept his apologies and the very good manner in which he made them. The Flowers sat on the altar for the […] celebration. To those present, I explained the story behind the flowers and of [Tom’s] visit. There was real gratitude that he came to the church, bringing the flowers on such an occasion and speaking to [the church member] as he did. Thank you particularly for all your efforts in restoring relationships.”
Tom expressed his learning from what had happened. He said: “I have learned so much from this offence and from my experience of meeting with members of the Church. I now realise the huge implications my actions, even at 18, can have on others and I am truly sorry for the hurt I have caused as a result of my participation in events that night. I’m a far more conscious person and never drink to the excess that I am unaware of my behaviour. I am working hard to better myself, have completed a [training] course and hoping to contribute in a positive way to my community.”