Keith’s Story

May 26, 2022
Images used are for illustrative purposes only and names of subjects have been changed

Keith (14) was referred to Sacro’s Youth Justice Service from the Children’s Reporter as a diversion from the Children’s Hearing System.

He had previously been referred to Sacro’s Youth Justice Service but had initially refused to engage. Keith had been charged with Assault to Severe Injury which had occurred at school and was against a younger pupil, Michael (13). This was his first offence and his behaviour at school had raised few concerns beyond this one incident. However, his behaviour at home was causing difficulties. Keith’s support needs were to address anger management and to help him appreciate the severity of the consequences of his actions. During a conversation with the Children’s Reporter, she advised that Michael’s mother has been in regular contact with her and felt that they, as a family, and in particularly Michael, had been left to deal with the aftermath of the incident without any support and were still traumatised by what had happened to him. The Reporter and Sacro worker discussed the possibility of a restorative intervention as a way forward for Michael and his family and to enable them to be able to have some closure and move on with their life. It was agreed that once a visit had taken place with Keith to ascertain his level of remorse and how he felt about making amends, it was agreed the writer would re-contact the Children’s Reporter to provide feedback.

Michael alleged he had been bullied by Keith for a number of months for no apparent reason. This escalated into a significant assault at school which required Michael to be taken to the minor injuries unit at the local hospital. The Police were contacted.

Michael was treated at the hospital for injuries to his face and kidneys with probable fractured ribs and reduced lung function as a result of the assault. Michael is still undergoing medical consultation with the Maxillofacial team and has been seeing a trauma counsellor.

At the initial meeting with Keith and his mother, the Sacro worker explained the reason for the referral and what the Youth Justice Service can offer. Keith admitted that he had gone too far and had hit Michael too hard. He accepted that he had an anger problem but this was mainly at home. Keith demonstrated remorse for his actions and was willing to work with the service to address the offence and to complete work on his anger management. Keith said he was willing to meet with Michael to apologise for his actions and to re-assure him that it will not happen again. Keith and his mother were shocked at the severity of Michael’s injuries and appeared to be unaware of the extent of trauma caused by the assault. With the consent of Keith and his mother, it was agreed that a Victim Awareness Programme be completed along with Anger Management.

A series of discussions took place with Michael and his mother to explain the restorative conference process and what they could expect. Although they felt it would be good for Michael, they needed time to think it over and discuss it as a family. This process took quite some time as Michael’s mother also wanted to explore the potential impact with M’s counsellor first before making a final decision. Michael and his parents made the decision to go ahead and meet with Keith and his mum at a Restorative Justice Conference as they felt it would finally bring them closure and help Michael to move forward and feel safe again.

At the initial Victim Awareness Programme session, Keith completed a FACTS exercise using the before, during and after model. This allowed him to explore the facts surrounding the offence and to allow him to identify where and when different choices could have been made. This would also be used as an explanation for Michael when it came to the conference. For the second session, Keith completed an exercise using the Ripple Effect which encouraged him to think about the consequences of his actions and to reflect on how and to what degree Michael, his parents and others have been affected. This also demonstrated the significant impact of Keith’s actions and helped develop empathy. For the final session in this programme, Keith worked through the FUTURE using the staircase of intervention. This exercise enabled Keith to look to his future, to highlight the consequences of offending and further offending behaviour and how offending behaviour can impact upon his life and career choices. He also completed an Anger Management Programme which consisted of “distinguishing anger”, “aggression and violence”, “beliefs”, “ways to control anger and coping strategies” and lastly, an action plan which would help Keith deal with things that make him angry in the future.

The Restorative Justice Conference took place at a neutral venue where Keith was able to give an explanation of what had happened to Michael, and his parents. Keith admitted he had taken things too far and regretted his actions. He also accepted responsibility for bullying Michael. Michael was then given the opportunity to explain how he had been affected by Keith’s actions and the trauma he had suffered as a result. Keith’s parents also explained how it had affected them all as a family. It was clearly an emotional time for both sets of families during the conference. Keith apologised for his actions and gave Michael and his parents a reassurance that it would not happen again. Keith’s mum also explained how she had been shocked at the severity of the assault and how she had felt when she realised what Michael had gone through. She too apologised to Michael and his parents for her son’s actions and was very emotional and tearful at this stage. Michael and his parents accepted Keith’s apology and thanked him for accepting responsibility, apologising and giving the reassurance that it would not happen again.

Keith demonstrated great commitment to working with this service. He attended all planned sessions and engaged fully during each session. He showed bravery in facing Michael and both his parents in what was a very emotional and stressful time for all parties concerned. Both boys are now able to move on with their lives and Michael is no longer fearful of Keith. Keith and his mum both reported that his anger issues have improved and he is now able to deal with his anger without it escalating into anything more serious.

Keith and his mum both reported that his anger issues have improved and he is now able to deal with his anger without it escalating into anything more serious.
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