Virginia Barton

3 March 2015: Restorative Justice


3 March 2015


There has been a four episode, thought-provoking programme on the television these last weeks called The Gift. It provoked my thoughts because it’s about restorative justice, a subject I have heard and wondered about but never properly looked into.

Here is the official description of it from the Restorative Justice Council website:

“Restorative justice gives victims the chance to meet or communicate with their offenders to explain the real impact of the crime — it empowers victims by giving them a voice. It also holds offenders to account for what they have done and helps them to take responsibility and make amends. Government research demonstrates that restorative justice provides an 85% victim satisfaction rate, and a 14% reduction in the frequency of re-offending.”

It is a service primarily for victims who appear to benefit most; but a 14% reduction in re-offending is a remarkable result. The website merits exploring. Were I thirty years younger it is something I would like to be involved with.


In the TV programme the accent was on people longing to apologise for a wrong inflicted upon someone, often some time ago. One such was a middle-aged man desperate to seek forgiveness from the boy he had bullied at school; bullied not just once, but over many years.

The boy, now a grown man, was sought and found and asked if he would be prepared, after all this time (20+ years), to forgive the perpetrator of the nightmare he had suffered as a youngster. He declined, saying he had never forgotten the hell of it and could never forgive such cruelty. But eventually he said he would meet his tormentor of long ago.

When he did meet him, and saw his genuine sorrow, he agreed to shake hands. When asked if he could forgive him he said yes. Now they had met, and talked, he could forgive him, because they had talked face to face and he had “seen into his eyes.”



Because this was a television programme it had, of course, an element of the happy ending, almost unavoidable in a programme of this sort. Actually, it was neither mawkish nor sentimental and did the concept of Restorative Justice a good turn.

It reminded me of a scene in Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Perhaps you remember the aftermath of the battle of Borodino, when Prince Andrei lies mortally wounded in a dressing station.

Quite by chance, on the adjacent stretcher someone is screaming with pain as he has his leg sawn off. It is Anatole Kuragin, the man Prince Andrei had vowed to hunt down and duel with, because of his attempted seduction of Natasha. But now – how sorrowful it all seems. His heart is full of tender forgiveness for his old enemy, love even.


I can’t write it like Tolstoy. It’s on page 968 in the book.







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