Criminal Damage –
Liam, who was in his 40s, was charged with criminal damage to three vehicles owned by Aoife, Christine and Pádraic, who were his neighbours. Liam was drinking in a pub one evening when he received text messages regarding an ongoing dispute. This annoyed Liam and he took a taxi home. He retrieved a crow bar, walked over to his neighbour’s driveway and damaged three cars belonging to Aoife, Christine and Pádraic. Liam was highly intoxicated. He shouted abusive comments toward Aoife and Christine outside their home, as onlookers gathered in the estate.
Gardaí were called to the scene and Liam was arrested. Liam pleaded guilty to the offence and the Court directed him to pay compensation towards the damage of the vehicles, which he did. Liam had previous offences relating to his alcohol consumption. The District Court referred the matter to an NGO that delivers restorative justice to assess whether it would be suitable for a restorative approach.
When the Caseworker met Liam to discuss the offence and his attitude towards it, he displayed a lot of remorse and shame for what happened, and said that he was willing to apologise and to make reparation to Aoife, Christine and Pádraic.
The Caseworker then contacted Aoife, Christine and Pádraic, who took some time to consider whether they wished to engage in restorative justice. They were initially reluctant but, after some thought and discussion, Aoife and her mother Christine decided that, while it would be difficult, they wanted to meet with Liam in mediation. They wanted to speak to Liam and tell him directly how his actions had affected them, as well as to ask him some questions.
Pádraic told the Caseworker that he did not want to engage in direct mediation with Liam. He said that Liam had apologised for his actions on the night of the incident and that he did not have any ill feeling towards Liam. The Caseworker agreed with Pádraic that his views would form part of the meeting and that he would be kept updated as to the progress of the case.
As Aoife and Christine were willing to participate and had clear expectations of what would happen next, and Liam had expressed remorse and willingness to make reparation, their case was considered suitable for victim-offender mediation. After significant preparation with Aoife, Christine and Liam, two Caseworkers from the NGO arranged and facilitated a meeting.
The meeting started with Liam giving his account of the incident, the impact of his actions, his thoughts at the time and his learning since. He expressed remorse and apologised to Aoife and Christine for his actions. Aoife and Christine discussed in turn how his actions affected them, Christine shared how she was fearful as a result of what had happened, and was upset that her grandchildren had felt fearful in their estate. The meeting was very emotional for all parties and Liam expressed his sincere apologies for his actions towards Aoife, Christine and Pádraic, as well as the impact it had on the children.
As the meeting progressed, the opportunity arose to discuss the reasons for the hostility. Aoife, Christine and Liam agreed a number of positive actions around this. Liam stated that he would never again behave in such a way, and that he was sincerely sorry. Aoife, Christine and Liam agreed that they wished to be able to pass each other in their community and to acknowledge each other. They agreed how best to achieve this. They group felt that this was very important.
Pádraic’s views were conveyed during the meeting. He had told the Caseworker that, going forward, he would like to have a peaceful relationship with Liam, as they had done before the incident. Liam agreed with this. Both parties said that they would speak with their children to explain that Aoife and Christine had met Liam to try to resolve what had happened.
Aoife and Christine said that they were happy with the compensation received. In addition, they felt that Liam should power wash and clean both driveways, to which Liam agreed. At the end of the meeting, Aoife and Christine initiated a handshake to Liam, which he gratefully received.
Subsequent to the mediation, Liam power washed both driveways. Pádraic and Aoife stated that he did a good job. Pádraic said that he spoke with Liam after the power washing and he was glad that the mediation had taken place and hoped that they could all move forward.
A report was provided to the Court detailing the victim-offender mediation and the agreement reached. Following consideration by the Judge, the matter was finalised in Court by means of Section 1(2) of the Probation Act, meaning that no further sanction was imposed.
Following the completion of the matter in Court, the Caseworker liaised with both parties to advise of the outcome and to discuss their experiences. Aoife expressed her satisfaction with the process. She said that she had initially felt that Liam should go to prison, but that mediation had made her feel better. She spoke about feeling calmer and less angry, and that it would have been great if the mediation could have happened sooner after the offence. She felt that the remorse shown by Liam and his acknowledgment of harm helped to make things feel better.
Liam spoke about his experience. He expressed his gratitude for an opportunity to apologise, and that his relationship with his neighbours had improved since the mediation.