An incident occurred in which Benita assaulted Sarah. As a result, Benita was immediately moved to another living unit. Sarah said she wanted the police to be informed of the assault, so this was done, but later she changed her mind and decided she no longer wanted to involve them. Meanwhile Benita was not allowed to associate with Sarah, and had to follow a separate activity schedule on her own every day.
After Sarah had made her decision not to involve the police, a member of staff, John, spoke to her to see how she felt about the assault. He asked Sarah to describe what had happened on the day she was assaulted. Sarah said that she was in the day room at about 8.15 in the morning. Benita came out of her room and accused Sarah of shouting in her bedroom and keeping her awake, and then punched Sarah on the side of her head. Sarah said she did not want to pursue the matter any more, as she felt sorry for Benita, seeing her on her own every day. Also Benita had apologised to her for hitting her.
John asked Sarah if Benita had tried to persuade her to drop charges against her (to check for bullying or intimidation). Sarah said it was her own decision. John asked her how she would feel about meeting with Benita to discuss the incident, so as to resolve any outstanding issues between them. Sarah said that she would be happy to do this.
John then spoke to Benita, who gave a similar account of the incident and said that she realised that she had been wrong to punch Sarah. John asked Benita if she was prepared to take part in a meeting with Sarah to discuss the incident and Sarah’s feelings. Benita agreed.
John met with the two young people in the chapel to discuss their feelings about the incident. Sarah said she had been upset at the time, but now wanted to forget about it.
Benita said she realised that she was in the wrong, and had apologised to Sarah. She recognised that she had a hot temper, but said she always calmed down quickly and never held a grudge against anyone. She felt that the situation had been made worse by staff moving her to another living unit, as she felt sure that things would have been resolved more quickly if she had been allowed to remain on the unit with Sarah.
John asked Benita if she was aware that, although she might get over this situation quickly, it would almost certainly be more difficult for the person harmed by her actions. Benita agreed that this was true. John explained that the staff had a responsibility to make sure that young people were safe and this was the reason for her unit move.
John acknowledged the apology and Sarah confirmed that she was satisfied with this resolution to the situation. John also checked whether Sarah felt comfortable with being around Benita during activities, and she was happy about this, so Benita could resume her normal activity schedule from the next day. Both young people were thanked for taking part in this meeting before being taken back to their respective living units.
Source: Marian Liebmann’s book, ‘Restorative Justice: How it works’ (2007, Jessica Kingsley Publishers)