Chester Borrows creative sentences are not restorative for victims of serious violent crime

Yesterday Chester Borrows spoke on the AM show about his preference for a more creative sentencing system that involves a high rate of Restorative Justice (RJ). He said he believed about half the prison population would be okay in society, and then commented (as a justification for shorter sentences) a child grounded for a month learns the lesson in the first week and the other 3 weeks are for nothing. Mr Borrows is naive in thinking the later part is for nothing, this is punishment. If we just let every offender learn a lesson with minimal punishment there will be no deterrent for them in the future.

Eleven years ago, my sister Vicki Telfer, was brutally murdered. She suffered a number of fatal stab wounds, fractured ribs and severed tendons, along with slashes, cuts and severe bruising to her petite 26 year old body.

As result of trying to intervene, my other sister also was attacked and received numerous defense wounds and extensive bruising. All this happened while Vicki’s (then) 18 month old daughter lay quietly in her bedroom next door.

I will not apologise for questioning Mr Borrows claims that RJ benefits everyone. I cannot think of anything worse than reliving the horror of what I know happened to Vicki, were I to attend a RJ meeting; nothing will ever be restored for my family or me. While the offender may feel they are taking responsibility for their offending through apologising, trying to put right the harm and claiming they will not reoffend, I seriously doubt it. It is probably more round their hoping to get a discounted sentence, or out on parole earlier if they profess regret. Be assured there is nothing restorative in this for any of us. Absolutely none of this will restore the life my deceased sister’s daughter could have had. Restorative justice may benefit the offender, but for me and many others in this horrific situation, it is at the cost and pain of the victim – and again we are seeing a push for an offender based system.

At my first victims conference run by the Sensible Sentencing Group Trust, I realised I was part of an exclusive group that no-one ever wants to be part of, but we are, by default of being victims of horrific crimes. Being a victim is never a status anyone wishes for, however having the offender moved into the status of victim is incredibly offensive. Let’s make something clear, while we did not have a choice in the crime committed, the offender certainly had a choice in committing the crime. Borrows states “people offend because it’s a learned behaviour”. In response to that I say sometimes the learned behaviour comes from learning that the punishment will be minimal.

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