Victim of crime finds voice as restorative justice speaker

A woman whose husband was stabbed outside their Oxfordshire home has told how “restorative justice” has allowed her to come to terms with the attack.

Coral Kent, 41, was the victim of a road rage incident which escalated when her husband Eddie was slashed with a knife.

Mr Kent’s attacker received a 12 month prison-term, suspended for two years, after he admitted assault.

Since meeting her husband’s attacker, Mrs Kent has become a spokeswoman for the restorative justice scheme.

In March she addressed the House of Lords, on behalf of Thames Valley Probation, about her experiences of the scheme.

“Big crowds don’t bother me and these people were quite tame compared to those I’d come across when I used to work as a bingo caller,” she said.

Mrs Kent, who has been a carer for her husband since he underwent a triple heart bypass, continued: “It made me realise there is help for the victim.

“The first question I asked my husband’s attacker was ‘Why?’

“He looked me in the eye and apologised profusely,” she said.

“Some will say he had to be there but it was what I got out of it, it’s all about the victim.

“If I’d not taken part in the scheme I’d still be angry today.”

Russian invitation

She later represented Thames Valley Probation at a conference in Oxford, at a youth offending centre in High Wycombe and at America Square Conference Centre in London, before addressing an international conference at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford.

Mrs Kent, from south Oxfordshire, said: “I told how, if used in the right way, restorative justice can be a great help to the victim.

“Guests from Russia and Germany invited me to talk in their countries but I cannot because of personal circumstances.”

Rather than attacking the criminal justice system for the offender’s non-custodial sentence, Mrs Kent is pleased he was not jailed.

“That would have been too easy, with three meals a day, TV and X-Box,” she said.

Re-offending down 55%

“Instead, he had to meet me face-to-face, listen to the impact of what he did to us and pull his socks up.”

Four years on, Mr Kent’s attacker has remained out of jail.

The scheme targets the victims and perpetrators of violence or household burglary (or both). It cannot be used for domestic abuse, sexual offending, child abuse or for cases found guilty after a trial.

Thames Valley Probation was the first in the country to offer restorative justice to the courts in 2009, as part of a community or prison sentence.

In 2010 Thames Valley Probation won the Howard League for Penal reform award for their work in this area.

A probation spokeswoman said: “The evidence speaks for itself. Of those offenders in the community who have taken part in restorative justice, there has been a 55% reduction in re-offending.”

All probation services in England and Wales hope to have introduced the restorative justice scheme by the end of the financial year.

A Victim Support spokeswoman said “every victim should be offered a choice of restorative justice”.

She added: “It is not suitable for all victims and full risk assessment must be undertaken in complex cases.”

 

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