Lisa was walking home from her shift as a nurse when she was attacked by two young people who stole her phone. She later met them in a restorative meeting that was able to give her the closure she needed. Both the young people spoke English as an Additional Language (EAL), so an interpreter was present to translate between Lisa, the young people, and their families during the conference.
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Why me? would like to thank Leeds Youth Justice Service for their support to publish Lisa’s story.
Lisa had been working at the hospital all day and was walking to her car to drive home. Whilst on the phone to her husband, she saw two young people walking towards her. As she passed them she felt a smack on the side of her face as her phone was grabbed out of her hands. They quickly ran off. Lisa didn’t know what to do as she was unable to call anyone. Luckily, a man who had been driving past and saw what happened stopped to help.
The loss of her phone was particularly painful for Lisa as she had voice notes on it from her friend who had recently passed away. “Whilst I could replace photographs, there were some voice messages on my phone that weren’t backed up that were from him and I couldn’t get those back. In the moment all I could think about was that I’d lost him again”. She was also one of the primary carers for a friend so she was worried about how they would get hold of her without a phone.
Shortly following the incident, the young people were caught, arrested, and prosecuted, and Lisa was able to get her phone back. “I’m luckier than so many people but it didn’t feel like it at first because it left me afraid to use my phone, and I was wary of people. I suspect I will always have that”.
Left with unanswered questions, one of Lisa’s friends who works for the police suggested that she take part in Restorative Justice.
“I was lucky in the sense that I had been told in detail by my friend about what Restorative Justice was. If they hadn’t told me any of that, I might have skimmed over it”.
Since Lisa was already interested in Restorative Justice, she was happy when she was contacted by Leeds Youth Justice Service. They have dedicated Victim Liaison Officers whose role is to contact all victims of youth crime and offer them the opportunity to engage in Restorative Justice. After a thorough preparation period, meetings with both young people were set up.
Lisa’s main motivation for taking part was to “help them get on the straight and narrow and not offend again, if it means that their lives are going to be better, and no one else will have to go through something like this.” Lisa also wanted the opportunity to get answers to the questions she had.
“I wanted to understand why they did it, what they were getting out of it, and what my phone was to them.”
Although Lisa’s priorities were that the young people would have a better future, she hadn’t expected what the process would be able to do for her.
“What I didn’t appreciate was what it also gave me, I hadn’t realised but it did also give me closure as well and made me feel better about the whole thing. That was never my reason for doing it, but it was a positive consequence for me. I didn’t really appreciate how powerful that could be.”
Reflecting on what the process meant to Lisa, she felt that she was able to get much more out of it than just knowing that the young people had been caught and her phone was retrieved.
“It’s more than getting that phone call hearing that they’ve confessed or been found guilty, and they’ve got that punishment. This part, sitting with them, holding them accountable yourself, and getting answers is massive.”
“There’s a connection now between me and them. We’ve met and shared something. I’ve got a vested interest in them. I’d love to hear that they came good. I’d like to know how they are doing, good and bad. I want this to not have been for nothing. I just want them to be happy and have a decent life.”
Using Restorative Justice with Participants who speak English as an Additional Language
The two young people who harmed Lisa were both supported by their families throughout the process. Whilst the young people had a good understanding of English (both written and spoken), their families did not, so an interpreter was required for the conference. The interpreter was a Youth Justice Worker who spoke the same language as the families and therefore was able to support them through the restorative process and provide translation services when needed. Using the method of consecutive translation, Lisa would say a short sentence then pause whilst it was translated to the family.
Although a different way of communicating, Lisa’s thoughts on the impact of the interpreter in the process were positive.
“I didn’t feel that it was any less of what it needed to be because there was an interpreter there. It didn’t really affect me. The pauses were so brief, in a way it was a good thing to take a breath and a sip of water and then continue. It didn’t feel like it was a problem.”
Having gone through the Restorative Justice process, Lisa has been able to see the benefits of partaking in Restorative Justice and it has allowed her to move on and become an advocate for the process.
“I would be a massive advocate for Restorative Justice now and if I ever come across anybody else who’d been in a situation where they might get the opportunity to take part, I’d say do it!”
Restorative Justice can take place when one or more of the participants who spoke English as an Additional Language. Face-to-face meetings may involve a translator and further support. Restorative practitioners should always make sure that the translator understands what Restorative Justice is and their role in the process. This is an example of a successful restorative process involving people who speak English as an Additional Language.
To hear more about this case from the perspective of the facilitator and case manager/acting interpreter, watch our interview with Dianne Gibson and Marian Popovici from Leeds Youth Justice Service.
We are currently working on a project which aims to better support people with English as an Additional Language through the restorative process, find out more on our Project Articulate page.