My anger subsided somewhat when the police advised me that several people had been arrested for the incident and would face court in coming months. I felt somewhat relieved but, perhaps surprisingly, a little intrigued.
I wanted to know what had motivated these people to do what they did. Why my house? I wanted to explain to them the trauma they had inflicted on my wife and kids that night. I wanted them to know that in stealing and trashing my car they also stole some beautiful music that was on a CD put together to celebrate my late brother’s life. The wonderful words of Paul Kelly’s Meet Me in the Middle of the Air and, of course, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by The Hollies. It might be a little thing, but this music enriched me with fond memories of my late brother Matt.
I understand, of course, that they will be dealt with via our legal processes. Unfortunately, as a former lawmaker and a victim of an alleged crime, I know that such legal processes often do not meet the needs of victims. Recent inquiries into victims’ experiences of criminal prosecutions in Victoria have highlighted that some victims come away feeling dissatisfied and, in some cases, retraumatised.
Put simply, the adversarial nature of our justice system has not been designed to meet victims’ individual justice needs and cannot meet the range of needs that victims have. The core function of a criminal prosecution is to determine questions such as whether a crime has been committed, whether an accused person is guilty and, if so, what sentence is appropriate. Processes of the criminal justice system are not primarily intended to address victims’ needs.
Such diverse needs, including those of my family, would be better met by the addition of restorative justice measures to the existing “one-size-fits-all” criminal processes.
Restorative justice focuses on the harm caused by crime and wrongdoing to people, relationships and community. It provides a framework for addressing and preventing harm that moves beyond punishment and towards healing. It may involve a facilitated conference between victim and perpetrator to talk about the harm caused and how it can be repaired or addressed.
I am still a little distressed at what happened on that awful night, but I am emboldened to keep advocating for restorative justice options to be embedded in our justice system to better meet the needs of victims.
There is a better way, and in my particular case, if the time comes, I’m up for it.