Ellis was a long term substance user, who was encouraged by an acquaintance – Mikel - to grab the handbag of a woman they saw in passing. Although it was not explicitly agreed, Ellis knew that he could use whatever was in the bag to buy more substances. Ellis grabbed the bag, but was surprised when the woman fought back. He was eventually able to take hold of it and run. Mikel and Ellis were both well known to the police and quickly caught, but in court Ellis was horrified to learn that Mikel’s previous offences were a lot more serious, violent and extreme than he had previously believed. Some years later, Ellis completed a victim awareness course while he was in prison, which led him to think about the harm he may have caused the woman with the handbag. He asked if he could offer Restorative Justice, stating “it’s never occurred to me to think about the people that might have been hurt along the way. She might have felt really targeted by what I did, so if that’s the case I should put her mind at rest.”
Facilitators located the woman – Lina – who was curious as to why Ellis was interested in speaking with her 6 years later. She was aware of both Mike and Ellis as they had lived locally. She felt that she had recovered from the robbery, but wanted the opportunity to hear Ellis’ version of events.
Ellis and Lina met while Ellis was still in prison. Ellis talked about his reliance on substances, how he hadn’t realised what Mikel’s offending history was like, and how it had never occurred to him that someone would have fought back. He noted that if the bag strap hadn’t snapped, he wouldn’t have made off with it. This was a significant moment for Lina, who noted “I didn’t realise it had. I always believed that you were stronger than me, and that was how you managed to take it. It’s always left me angry that I was weaker, and it’s made me feel vulnerable. I don’t feel that way now.” This helped Ellis reflect on his actions, and he apologised. They talked about Ellis’s plans for the future, and Lina encouraged him to do better. She pointed him in the direction of some organisations who could offer help and support. Both Ellis and Lina parted on good terms.
When facilitators returned to speak with both parties, Lina spoke positively about the experience, noting that she felt better about herself and her actions on the day. “Life’s too short for me to hold a grudge. It was good to have the opportunity to meet with him before I bumped into him on the street. We know where we stand with each other now.” Her comments had led to Ellis being more motivated to plan for the future, and he spoke of how surprised and thankful he was that Lina had taken the time to hear him out