A burglar who stole a widow’s precious engagement ring and then sold it for cash has apologised to his victim at a restorative justice meeting.
The 18-year-old broke in to the 76-year-old’s Lancaster home earlier this year, and stole the sentimental jewellery, along with cash and a signet ring belonging to her husband who had recently died of cancer.
The burglar was later arrested by police and, with his help, officers were able to trace the engagement ring and return it to its owner.
The 18-year-old was convicted at court and was ordered to pay compensation to his victim, as well as carry out community service.
The teen decided to take part in the restorative justice session voluntarily and without obligation, as he wanted to make amends for what he had done.
Afterwards, the 18-year-old said: “I took part in the meeting because I thought I had done something wrong and I want to change and make the lady feel better. I just wanted to tell her I was sorry.
“Now that I’ve met her, I feel even worse - I feel bad for making an old lady cry after what I’ve done.”
Restorative justice projects are designed to bring victims and offenders together to decide on a response to a particular crime. It not only gives victims the chance to move on by speaking to the offender about the incident and why it happened, but also encourages offenders to face up to their actions by hearing how their behaviour affected another person’s life.
The teen, who wants to join the army, said the meeting had made him think differently about the future.
“I just want to get my head down now, get on with things and get a career in the forces," he says. "I'll keep things she has told me and try to act on the advice she gave me about getting training.”
The meeting, held in the victim’s home at her request, was also designed to help the pensioner recover from the trauma of the burglary by getting the youngster to explain his actions. The theft of the ring had been particularly upsetting for the widow, as her husband died in March following a long battle with cancer.
“I was most devastated about the theft of my lovely engagement ring," she said. "It’s the only real jewellery that I have ever owned.
“It was also the idea of the violation of my own home, the fact that someone had wandered through my home and gone through my belongings," the pensioner added.
"With the recent death of my husband this incident intensified the distress that I felt, not only that of losing my husband but the insecurity of it all as well.”
The victim felt that meeting the offender would help her gain some closure on the incident.
“I wanted to see his face," she explained. "After the burglary it was 10 of the worst days, I didn’t feel safe in my own home and I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to know why he had done it and show him that it’s not just a house, it’s a home. I also wanted to give him something to think about the next time he’s considering doing something like this.”
Meetings between offender and victim are rarely easy, and the pensioner approached the encounter with some trepidation.
“I was apprehensive before we met," she says, but added "I was surprised at how intelligent and well turned out he looked. I thought if you met him in the street you’d think he was a nice lad. I requested the meeting be at my home address where the burglary occurred as I wanted to show him what he had done to me.”
The experience has been a valuable one for the victim. She said: “I feel that by doing this, the young man has faced up to his criminality. He has 13 GCSEs so he’s an intelligent lad. With support and firm, loving guidance he should mend his ways.
“This has helped me to have closure on the whole incident and has helped me on the road to recovery," the pensioner hopes. "My respect for the local police force knows no bounds now. I can not speak highly enough about the way that they have dealt with this case. I realise what wonderful support systems we have within the community and the speed at which the offender was dealt with was impressive.”
DC Corinne Cleasby and DC Ian Wright were the two officers involved in bringing the pair together.
“The meeting has really benefitted both the victim and the offender," feels DC Wright. "The offender did not have to take part in this process at all – he had been dealt with by the courts, but he wanted to say sorry and that shows some promise for him in the future.
“The victim, having also got her ring back, was satisfied that the offender deeply regretted what he had done and has even offered him further support to help him achieve his new goals.”
“All restorative justice meetings are considered carefully before they take place, so that we know that both sides will benefit from it, explains DC Cleasby. "The meeting was very emotional with positive feedback from both parties.
"This was the first time that the two had met, never meeting during the course of the investigation, and both now feel that they can move on from what happened.”