Harry Dunn: A missed opportunity?
The parents of Harry Dunn, the young man killed in a traffic accident involving an American diplomat’s wife, were confronted with a sudden and serious decision just eight weeks after their son’s death. During a meeting with Donald Trump at the White House they were told that the woman who had killed their son was in the next room. They were asked if they would like to meet her. The couple declined the invitation. Presented with such an unexpected proposition Mr Dunn expressed his concern, “We didn’t want to be railroaded into…a meeting we weren’t prepared for.”
This reads like a guide on how not to do Restorative Justice.
In a Restorative Justice process victims are given support and prepared for a meeting with the offender. They are given the time to consider their decision and offered the opportunity to pursue contact via means that don’t involve meeting face to face if doing so may be too difficult.
The mother of Harry Dunn has spoken out about how she thinks the meeting should have been handled. ‘I don’t think it would be appropriate to meet her without therapists or mediators in the room,’ she said. In a Restorative Justice meeting there is always a facilitator present, someone who remains neutral to both parties. This maintains a safe environment for the victim to have their say.
Giving parents such as Harry’s the chance to meet the person who has harmed their child can be transformational in the right circumstances. It enables them to communicate the desolation and grief they feel as a result of that person’s actions. Sometimes it can provide answers to questions that may haunt a family for many years: Why my child? Will I be targeted next? Do you feel remorse for what you have done?
Being heard is incredibly important to victims. But meeting the person who has caused you harm without proper preparation can risk re-traumatisation. Victims should be treated with patience, they should be allowed to tell their story on their own terms and in their own time.
The struggle of Harry’s parents to get justice for their son is deeply felt by many. There has been a missed opportunity to assist the family in having a considered and well-planned meeting with the person who harmed their son. We hope that the family can find some of the answers that they are looking for.