John’s Story

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John Mcgowan is the head porter at Durham Cathedral.  He lives on site. One night in November 2013 he became aware of noise on the roof of the Chapter House. He went to investigate and saw that four people had climbed up some scaffolding and were putting themselves in much danger as the roof is very high and there is a steep drop into the river at one side.

John climbed up to encourage them to get down and in the process slipped and hurt his back and arm.  He’d already called 999, and by this time the fire brigade and a police helicopter had arrived.

It turned out that the four people were students at the University who had climbed up as a drunken prank.  They were eventually fined by the University and narrowly avoided being asked to terminate their studies.

One of the Students wrote John a letter to apologise and he eventually met all four of them in a Restorative Justice conference.

“They took every criticism on the chin.  I think they’d learned a huge lesson.  It was a case of stupidity mixed with alcohol.

“The meeting diffused everything.  They are more than sorry and a couple of them now go round to talk to sixth formers about excessive drinking.  One also volunteers at the cathedral.”

Without Restorative Justice,  John says the matter would never have been resolved as effectively.

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