Ed and Rumbie's story
When Ed and Rumbie were burgled two weeks after moving into their flat, their optimism about their new life together was ruined. As part of a pre-sentence restorative justice trial, they were given the opportunity to meet their offender at Pentonville prison.
Rumbie: "Ed and I had just moved into our first flat together. We were in the middle of unpacking and settling in. Ed had just been promoted and I’d just got a new job, so it was a really exciting time. Ed came home one day and found a brick on the kitchen floor. He rang me and said, 'I think we’ve been burgled.'"
Ed: "I had a quick look around the flat, and at first it didn’t look too bad. Then I noticed that our iPads were gone, and so was my hard drive. All of the drawers in our bedroom had been tipped out and everything had been rifled through. I called Rumbie at work and she came straight home. I felt very upset. I knew Rumbie already had doubts about our new neighbourhood, and moving there had been my idea. I felt really guilty and I expected her to be very distraught."
"I felt completely invaded."
Rumbie: "Because the flat was still new to us it hadn’t started to feel like home yet and I felt completely invaded by the burglary. We’d had great plans when we moved in and it was really frustrating to hit such a bump in the road. I already felt a bit unsafe, because our area isn’t the safest in London, and the burglary made me really angry.
"For me, the worst thing I lost was my backpack, which I took to work every day. Everything else was replaceable, but that one thing was so personal to me that I felt furious that the burglar had taken it."
"I didn't feel like the flat was home anymore."
Ed: "The burglar hadn’t taken anything which was dear to me, like my guitars, but I didn’t feel like the flat was home anymore. As it was our first proper place together, it was the first time we’d been able to leave things lying around where we wanted them. After the burglary we started to put everything away before going out – I stopped feeling like our house was our personal space.
"In those first few weeks afterwards my sleep was disrupted – the slightest noise would wake me up instantly. I was very nervous. I no longer felt as if I could take our privacy for granted."
Rumbie: "What followed were weeks of visits from the police to keep us informed of what was happening. They caught the burglar through traces of his DNA which were on the brick. He was already known to the police as a prolific offender.
"One day, we had a visit from PC Mark Davies and Kate Renshaw from Only Connect, a local charity. They explained that the burglar – Fabian – had been caught, and was willing to meet us in a restorative justice conference. After they left we started to look on the internet to find out more about restorative justice – we were really curious to know more about it and what it involved, and we found some films about the process.
"After watching the films, we felt like it was our duty to take part in restorative justice. We were never pressured into it, but it seemed like the right thing to do."
Ed: "Once we decided to go ahead with the conference, we were told exactly where it would take place and what would happen. I felt fine until a few days before the conference, but on the day, it was definitely nerve-racking."
"We trusted the people who were organising the meeting."
Rumbie: "I was really nervous on the day of the meeting, too. But the police had reassured us that if Fabian was violent or we were at risk, they wouldn’t allow the meeting to go ahead. We trusted the people who were organising the meeting."
Ed: "It was the first time either of us had seen the inside of a prison, which was interesting. We went into the chapel, where the conference was taking place, and took a while deciding exactly how we wanted the seating arranged. Then we chatted awkwardly until Fabian, the burglar, was brought in."
Rumbie: "We were initially quite taken aback because we’d expected someone very different. Fabian was well dressed and well spoken – he seemed like a really normal guy and we couldn’t get our heads around what was going on with him to make him do what he did."
Ed: "I didn’t know in advance what I wanted to ask him – I figured it would come to me on the day. We’d been encouraged not to plan too much. Fabian had brought a letter he’d prepared for us and he started by reading that out. It talked about how he understood it must be strange for us to meet him and that we probably hated him. He then went on to talk about the burglary. He’d been in the park next to our house using drugs, and when he’d run out he’d seen our road, which is quiet and secluded."
"The personal impact of the burglary was lessened."
Rumbie: "For me, the personal impact of the burglary was lessened by meeting him. I realised that it had been a spur of the moment decision – he was off his face – whereas before I had thought it was premeditated. I learned that he wasn’t watching us, he wasn’t following us, which are things you think when someone’s been in your house."
Ed: "I told Fabian how the crime had affected us, and how I felt about my home after he’d been in it. I didn’t think it was worth asking him to go into a programme for his drug addiction – I felt that was something he was only ever going to be able to do for himself, and not because I told him to. What I did suggest was that he didn’t go back to his flat – which he’d managed to keep for a decade while going in and out of prison – as that was associated with his old life.
"I think I got through to him a little bit, but Rumbie was more effective. She said to him, ‘If someone asks me what this guy is like, what should I tell them?’ That was the first time he was lost for words – maybe it was a little ray of light coming through a crack. He couldn’t answer – it challenged him."
Rumbie: "When we left the meeting I felt really sorry for Fabian, but personally, I felt a lot safer in our home and our neighbourhood. We felt empowered, but we’ll definitely think about Fabian for a long time and wonder how he’s doing."
Ed: "The conference definitely helped me to move on – it was a valuable experience. It made both of us less worried that we’d been targeted, but it also concluded some of the emotional aspects – it closed a chapter for us. Now, I’ve got a sense of perspective on what happened to us, but it’s also given me some insight into the criminal justice process – it involved me.
"We were assured that restorative justice does not necessarily lead to a more lenient sentence, and in fact, we could request that the judge didn’t take it into account when considering Fabian’s sentence. I felt that if the conference was going to be helpful to the judge in making a decision, then it should definitely be considered.
"It offers emotional closure."
"If someone else was considering restorative justice, I would tell them to go for it. It offers you emotional closure and it puts a perspective on a crime – it seems less sinister. And it involves people – citizens – in the justice process. They come face to face with it and understand how it works."
The Restorative Justice Council would like to thank Ed and Rumbie for sharing their story with us.
© Restorative Justice Council 2015 – do not reproduce without permission.
For interview requests please contact Safi Schlicht: firstname.lastname@example.org