CASE STUDY: Burglary
Background to Case:
This was a case referred to us by the Restorative Justice HUB regarding the burglary of an elderly lady, Donna Jones. The offence had been committed by Michael, 43 who had received an 80 month custodial sentence as a result of the burglary of Donna, and other burglaries in the area that he had committed around the same time.
Donna was on her way home and parking her car in the drive way when she spotted Michael sitting on a neighbor’s wall. Michael told Donna that he had fallen over and hurt his leg and was waiting for his grandma to come home. A short time later Michael appeared on Donna’s path at the side of her house and made a comment about the rubbish on the pavement just outside of her garden from where she had pruned her hedges. Donna replied ‘yes it is my mess and I’m going to clear it up’. Michael was still moaning about his leg so Donna asked him if he wanted a drink of water and some pain killers, which he said he did. Donna gave him a drink and then went back to the garden.
A short time later, Donna’s neighbor called her and said that he had seen a male walking down the side of her house and may have been inside. Donna walked inside and noticed her handbag had been looked through. She noticed her purse was missing, this contained a small amount of money and her credit cards. She then heard some scuffling noises coming from her bedroom and at this point Donna shouted at the top of her voice ‘CALL THE POLICE THERE IS SOMEONE IN MY BEDROOM’. Michael then ran out of the front door taking the door keys with him. Other items that were stolen included watches and a pendant which had a sentimental value to Donna.
Donna said she felt very frightened and scared that somebody had been in her house. She was also very frightened that Michael may come back in the night as he had taken the front door keys. Donna was also very upset that Michael had taken a lot of sentimental items that her late husband had given her. Donna said that now, she is very suspicious of people that come to her house or any strangers that may look a bit like Michael. She said that she is very cautious and careful at home.
Michael was initially unable to provide clear details about the offence due to having taken drugs at the time. He said that reason for him committing the offence was for money and that he targeted the elderly as he knew they would be vulnerable and he ‘would be more likely to get away with more money’. Michael said he felt ‘very guilty’ about what he did and said that he understands that Donna may have felt scared to be in her own home and he does not wish for Donna to feel this way. Michael wanted the opportunity to apologise to Donna.
Following preparation visits to both parties, Michael wrote Donna a letter in which he expressed his ‘deepest apologies’ and also explained his current situation and lifestyle, which Donna had asked Michael to write about so she was able to understand some reasons for his offending behavior. Michael wrote about how he has now been drug free for 6 months and continued to apologise a number of times throughout the letter.
On receiving the letter, Donna was very emotional and stated that she was so shocked and could not believe that Michael had written to her. Donna said she was able to understand his situation and ‘felt sorry for him and feels sorry that he has to live as he does’. Donna said ‘I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him it’s ok’. Donna said she hopes that Michael can turn his life around. Michael had attempted to answer all of the questions that Donna had and had also told Donna where he had ‘dumped’ all of her items shortly after the burglary. This meant a lot to Donna that Michael had answered all of her questions and had been honest with her.
Michael said ‘at the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I would get anything from writing Donna a letter, but it made me think about how what I did impacted on Donna and the way she lives her life’.
Donna said ‘It was really good that the lady from Remedi was able to speak to Michael and myself and eventually assure me that Michael was truly sorry for what had happened’.