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Thursday, 24 November 2011

A "Victim Letter" - the Start of a Process

The BBC News Website have a story here about a young burglar, under the supervision of the Youth Offending Team and required to write a remorseful letter to his victims. The young person does write a letter but instead of saying sorry, he blames the victim for leaving open the kitchen window, living in a high crime area and not closing the living room curtains. His last sentence is, "But anyways I don't feel sorry for you and I'm not going to show any sympathy or remorse".

The police released this letter to the public as a warning for householders to close their curtains. I would imagine they did this without consulting the Youth Offending Team or the Probation Service. The police often have their own agenda in these matters and don't see how their actions actually undermine public confidence in the Criminal Justice System. As a result we have a number of agencies rushing to defend the principles of restorative justice and someone from the Ministry of Justice providing a bland statement on the effectiveness of Intensive Supervision.

Of course restorative justice is only meaningful if the offender feels and expresses genuine remorse. If that happens then the results can be very positive for the victims and the offender. This type of response was never going to be sent to any victims, rather it is the beginning of a process in which the views expressed in the letter can be challenged and changed. If I was working with this young offender I would thank him for his honesty; I would then begin the process of confronting the beliefs and values that underpin the thoughts expressed in the letter. This young man (and I am assuming it is a young man) has no empathy for the victim, takes no responsibility for his actions and feels no remorse. It's the job of the Youth Offending Team to address those deficits. No need for outrage, just good probation work!


  1. I agree entirely with what you are saying, John. Unfortunately, your arguments arise because of your experience of offence-focused work and your own propensity to use balanced thinking. Neither of these attributes seem to be very prevalent in the reporting of any of any of the news organisations in our country, where tittilation and sensationalism seem to be the order of the day.
    I'm also astounded that the police released the letter. Presumably it would have been passed on by the police present as part of the multi-disciplinary YOT? Even after many years of, so called, multi disciplinary work, I think that the different services still sing from different hymn sheets.
    Having finally read the letter, I still think it reads rather like a letter fron an Insurance company as they turn down a householder's claim!

  2. Thanks for posting John. I did think of how you might have reacted to the police releasing that kind of letter to the press! Our news media has become a real monster (with a short attention span). I like the letter's refrain: "Basically it was your fault anyways" I think the lad has a career ahead of him in politics, insurance or banking!