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Restorative Justice: Giving a voice to those affected by antisemitism

17 Jan 2019 by CST

Part of CST’s work with those affected by antisemitism is to support them to help address the impact their experience has had. One way to do this is through Restorative Justice, which allows those affected by all forms of crime to explain to the offenders the impact their criminality has had on them and for offenders to apologise for their actions. CST has worked on several cases of antisemitism, nationwide, where Restorative Justice was used to educate the offender and bring closure to the victim.

Restorative processes let offenders take responsibility for their actions and make amends; holding offenders to account personally and directly. It gives those affected by crime the chance to meet the offenders in a neutral and safe space, carefully managed by Police or other agencies, to get answers to their questions and to get on with their lives. Restorative Justice does not replace or reduce a court sentence but can be used alongside the conventional criminal justice route, at any stage, even years after the incident occurred.

In April 2011, the Restorative Justice partnership between Greater Manchester Police and the Jewish community was launched, hosted at CST's northern regional office in Manchester. Attended by representatives and leaders from the kehillah and Greater Manchester Police, the keynote speech was delivered by Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan, who was accompanied by Inspector Gail Spruce, Greater Manchester Police's lead on Restorative Justice. At the launch, Rabbi Yehuda Brodie z”l of Manchester Beth Din highlighted the importance of Restorative Justice in Jewish faith: “the concept of Restorative Justice whereby restitution is coupled with remorse and a plea for forgiveness is basic to Jewish Law. There cannot be closure for any crime against the person whether verbal or physical or for any act of damage to a person's property or reputation without genuine regret for one's actions and a sincere apology to the victim.”

One example of this involved two men who drove through Prestwich in Manchester in March 2016 and shouted antisemitic abuse at visibly Jewish members of the public. Officers from Greater Manchester Police traced the offenders and invited two victims, along with members of CST and other partners, to a Restorative Justice meeting. At the session, the victims explained the hurt caused by the antisemitic abuse and the two offenders, aged 23 and 24, took responsibility for their actions. Police Sergeant Steve Wightman Love reported that “the meeting was an emotional event on all sides, with the two men admitting that their behaviour was antisemitic…and, not acceptable. It helped them better understand the consequences of their actions and this resulted in what I can only describe as the most productive Restorative Justice meeting, I have ever been involved in.”

CST also supports Restorative Justice in the Southern region, through the CST London office. In 2017, a group of young Jewish schoolchildren were physically and verbally attacked on a London bus coming home from school. Sitting on the top deck of the bus, they were confronted by a group of teenagers, who persistently asked the children if they were Jewish, if they attended a Jewish school and why they were not wearing “those silly hats.” The attackers then hit, kicked and punched the Jewish schoolchildren who tried to get the attention of the bus driver, but were ignored and remained trapped on the bus as the violence continued. The Jewish schoolchildren fled the bus at the next stop but were followed and chased. The victims ran into a Jewish shop, at which point security intervened and reported the incident to the Police, who arrived shortly afterwards. Parents of the children who had been attacked subsequently reported this incident to CST, who supported the victims and their families through the Police investigation and criminal justice process. As part of their sentence, the perpetrators were sentenced to 60 hours of victim awareness and a Restorative Justice programme, with the aim of making the offenders realise the impact their actions had on the children and the wider Jewish community. A relative of one of the victims gratefully told CST that they were assigned “a fantastic [Police] officer who was very supportive and helpful and conscientious all the way through.” 

During the early summer of 2018, another antisemitic incident took place in Prestwich, right in the heart of the North Manchester community. A car drove past a group of Jewish people, and the driver shouted antisemitic abuse at the group, whilst a passenger in the car held up a badge emblazoned with a swastika. CST reported the incident to the Police and provided them with CCTV of the incident. After the driver of the vehicle and passengers involved were located, the victims and the offenders agreed to take part in Restorative Justice. The meeting, chaired by PC Neil Cheslett, who has a wealth of experience in using Restorative Justice for antisemitic hate crime cases, was attended by the offenders, staff from CST and the incident victims. The significance of the Holocaust was explained to the offenders, including details of the Nazi concentration camps to underpin why using a swastika to abuse Jews is so offensive. One of the victims was able to talk to the offenders about his time in the British Army in order to explain the importance of tolerance and what he had to face during his time in service so that we can live the lives we do today. The perpetrators were asked about why they carried out the abuse, and all three perpetrators apologised for their actions and the offence caused.

CST has participated in several other successful examples of Restorative Justice in London and Manchester and can offer support and guidance if you wish to use the opportunity to bring closure after an incident you have faced. The Police and CST can facilitate a conference between yourself and the person who has caused harm or act as a surrogate if you do not want to come face-to-face with the perpetrator. CST can also facilitate a learning session by explaining the effects of antisemitism or attend as a ‘supporter’ during a conference.

If you have been affected by antisemitism please get in contact with CST and we can discuss how we can help and support you and explain what options are available including Restorative Justice.  Get in contact with CST on 020 8457 9999 / 0161 792 6666, and take a look at the Crown Prosecution Service website

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Joshua Rowe
Chair of Governors, King David High School, Manchester