The story behind the media storm
Why me? has just launched a service offering Restorative Justice to victims and one of the first cases we’ve facilitated is that of Paul Kohler and his wife Samantha MacArthur – victims of a violent attack at their home which left Paul seriously injured.
The crime generated much media coverage when it happened during the summer of 2014, then again when the four men responsible were sentenced to long periods in prison in January 2015. Pictures of Paul with his face badly bruised and swollen were in all the papers and on TV.
Why me? contacted Paul after he said publicly in the Autumn of 2014 that he was interested in talking directly to the men who’d been found guilty of beating him up. Paul was pleased to hear from us and we agreed to start the Restorative Justice process. That was the point at which a year of hard work, hours spent on trains, multiple phone calls, visits to prison and many meetings with people from various sections of the criminal justice system kicked off.
Charlotte Calkin, a Restorative Justice practitioner with several years of experience and Lucy Jaffe, a co-director of Why me? and also a qualified practitioner, facilitated Paul and Samantha’s case from start to finish. The Restorative Justice conference – the part of the process where the victim meets the offender, and the bit that attracts all the media excitement – is actually just a small portion of Restorative Justice in terms of time. Before the meeting happened, Charlotte and Lucy had spent hours talking to Paul and Samantha, getting a feel for what they wanted out of the conference and preparing them for it. They also visited all four of the men in prison and talked to them at length, gauging how much remorse they were showing and forming a picture of whether they really understood what Restorative Justice would entail. These conversations often had to be done through a Polish/English translator. Then more time was spent consulting people that were responsible for the men such as prison officers, probation staff and one of the prison chaplains.
Eventually on Tuesday 24th November 2015, Charlotte and Lucy travelled to the prison with Paul, Samantha and one of their daughters for the conference with one of the men. The family said they got a great deal out of it and were very impressed with the Restorative Justice process along with the way that Charlotte and Lucy had facilitated it.
Paul then decided he’d like to take part in several media interviews to talk about the meeting. He appeared on BBC Breakfast News and BBC London and he and Samantha talked on BBC 5Live radio. The story was on the front page of the London Evening Standard, appeared in the Daily Mail online (an extremely popular news website) and in the Daily Mirror, to mention a few. We estimate that over fifteen million people will have heard about Restorative Justice thanks to Paul’s willingness to speak out. Everyone at Why me? is extremely grateful to him and Samantha for sharing their story with the media. We hope that it will help public understanding of this important and valuable process and will result in more enquiries to Why me? and all Restorative Justice providers throughout England and Wales. Why me? also want to thank Charlotte Calkin and Lucy Jaffe who gave their time voluntarily to facilitate this case. Travel expenses were met by Why me? which relies on charitable funding.
Here are some of the online pieces from the Mail, Mirror and Standard:
One small footnote: Much of the media coverage has highlighted Paul’s “forgiveness” of the offender. Why me? believe it is important to understand that willingness to forgive is NOT a precondition for taking part in Restorative Justice. Many victims who take part never express forgiveness and successful Restorative Justice does not rely on it.