Are victims of terror having their questions answered?

Published: Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

This is blog by Ben Andrew, the Policy and Communications Officer at Why me?

The terror attack in Streatham was a horrific incident which is likely to affect the people involved for the rest of their lives. 20 year old Sudesh Amman grabbed a knife from a shop  on Streatham High Street and stabbed two people before being shot dead by police. Amman had previously expressed extreme Islamist views, and had been released from prison ten days previously where he had been serving time for spreading terrorist material. 

After a terror attack, there is a lot of focus on how the general population reacts. We often hear about how people have come together, shown defiance, or refused to be afraid of terrorism. This is understandable, as terrorism is designed to strike fear into ordinary people, and is often described as an attack on all of us and our values.

But the voices and experiences of the people who were directly harmed by the incident are often forgotten amongst all of this discussion. What happened in Streatham was not just a political attack or an attack on our collective values – it was a physical attack on two individuals who sustained serious injuries. One is 51 year old nursery teacher Monika Luftner who was stabbed by Amman after having coffee with family and friends. She sustained non-life threatening injuries and is now recovering out of hospital. The other is a man in his 40s who has not been named. He was left fighting for his life after being stabbed, but is now in a stable condition. 

These two individuals have suffered the most serious physical and emotional harm as a result of Amman’s actions, but others were harmed as well – including the woman in her 20s who was hurt by fragments of glass after the police shot Amman dead; the shopkeeper Jagmon who tried to stop Amman stealing a knife from his shop; and the many eyewitnesses who were horrified by what they saw. Amman’s family are likely to be deeply affected as well. His mother spoke to him that day, and described him as seeming “normal” when she last saw him. 

Have the people directly harmed by this incident been asked what they want to happen next? Do they have unanswered questions? The perpetrator won’t go to court or be held accountable for his actions. Does this affect how they are feeling and the impact of the crime on them? A restorative process may be able to address some of these questions. While Amman cannot take part himself, there are other restorative options which could be explored. The people affected may want to meet with his family. They may want to meet with former terrorists who are now deradicalized, and could explain some of the motivations that may have driven what he did. 

It is important that victims of terror have the opportunity to talk about the impact of the crime on them, which may be completely different to the effect it has on the general public or on political discussion. Restorative Justice could give them the opportunity to talk about the impact of the crime, which has helped many people move forward from the incident. 

We hope that all of the people harmed by the attack in Streatham continue to recover from the emotional and physical impact of the incident. Like all victims of crime, we hope that they are empowered to have their voices heard, and are able to access a restorative process if they wish.

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