Julie Kelly deeply impressed by Restorative Justice.
THE MOMENT the man who brutally killed Julie Kelly’s partner made her a cup of tea was the culmination of an eight-year-long battle to meet the attacker.
Paul died in his Manchester home in 2005 after being stabbed 17 times. The frenzied knife assault took place in the attacker’s home after the two men had rowed while watching a game of football.
Julie’s life was turned upside down by her partner’s death, but participating in a Restorative Justice (RJ) conference helped her come to terms with aspects of the event that she had wrestled with for a long time.
Julie will be talking about her experience at a public event run by the Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company that’s being hosted at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.
She said: “There were a lot of things I wanted to know. I have a strong Buddhist faith, it’s easy to talk about faith but when it’s tested by something like what happened to Paul then it can become very difficult.
“There were questions I wanted answered, and at times I had an all-consuming desire to meet the attacker.
“I started to write to the man because I was desperate to meet him to let him know that I’d forgiven him. I felt that if professionals couldn’t arrange for me to do it, then I’d organise it myself – that’s how committed I was.”
At the time of the offence Julie had been a social worker involved in a role which included working in some of the region’s prisons. She felt unable to continue her job in case she met the offender while on a jail visit.
Unbeknown to Julie, after the attacker – who was convicted of manslaughter – received her first letter, the prison blocked further correspondence.
Julie said: “I was gutted because I thought he was spurning letters in which I’d expressed forgiveness.”
One of probation’s victim liaison officers contacted Julie to see if there was another approach that could be made. She was advised to speak with Geraldine Martin, a Restorative Justice facilitator for Merseyside probation.
Julie said: “Geraldine persevered. I cannot express to you what that meant to me. She kept plugging away, and eventually he agreed. I am also indebted to the prison for supporting RJ.”
The conference took place at HMP Liverpool in Walton. Geraldine gave Julie a detailed description of how the conference was going to proceed, down to how the seats were going to be arranged.
Julie said: “It was so important that I knew how it was going to be structured. After waiting for eight years to meet him, it was still an incredibly nervous time – for both of us.
“I’d been worried about the seating. But once I knew I would go in first, and where he’d be in relation to me, then I felt more relaxed.
“I also knew it took guts on his part to meet me. Walton Prison put an emphasis on RJ, and that’s to their immense credit.”
The attacker spoke candidly about how he had a drink problem and that during the night he stabbed Paul, he had blacked out.
She said: “He was full of remorse and didn’t try to defend his actions in the slightest. He described how he’d rowed with my partner, had gone to the kitchen and seen the knife and decided to injure him.
“The conversation flowed naturally. He made me a cup of tea and we ate biscuits as we talked. I had a card I’d prepared that expressed my forgiveness and I gave it to him before we hugged.
“I’d already found out everything about the offence from the professionals and I’d read about the alcohol condition the man had. But we had both gone through an incident that had changed both our lives forever – we had something profound in common.”
Julie was informed the man progressed well in prison, had abstained from alcohol for a year, and was encouraging other inmates to participate in RJ conferences.
She added: “My faith is about forgiveness and stresses the importance of working to benefit others. RJ gave me the chance to make that real.
“The RJ conference was beautifully done and I believe was of a tremendous benefit to both of us.”
Merseyside CRC’s Restorative Justice event is being hosted at the Anglican Cathedral, St James’s Mount, on Thursday, February 4th, at 9.30am.