After a vicious attack Shad was left with horrific injuries and had to take part in two traumatic court hearings. Here, Shad reveals how his experience with restorative justice helped him through the ordeal, and what led him to film his own meeting to help others.
"It was the middle of the afternoon on a hot, sunny day and I was on my bike running some errands in central Nottingham. As I rode along, a man was shouting racist abuse at two Pakistani women. His fists were clenched, and his manner was very threatening and aggressive. I was concerned that he was going to attack the women, so I stopped my bike in case I needed to intervene.
"The man continued to shout, but by then he’d passed the women and was walking in my direction. He saw me looking at him and shouted, ‘What the f***ing hell are you looking at, Paki?’ I responded by telling him that it wasn’t OK to use language like that, but he carried on shouting. By that time, he’d reached where I was standing with my bike, and he put his face right up against mine and continued abusing me – basically, he wanted a fight.
"I turned my bike around to ride away. That was the last thing I remember."
"I was frightened, but my social work training had taught me that when someone’s really losing control, the most important thing is to remain calm yourself. The verbal abuse carried on for a few minutes, and eventually I said to him, ‘Look, I’m not interested in fighting, I’m going to leave.’ I turned my bike around to ride away. That was the last thing I remember.
"I woke up with a huge, dull ache on the right hand side of my face and no vision in my right eye. My bike was 10 yards away, and there were lots of people around me trying to help me into an ambulance. I found out later that when I’d turned to leave, the man had run up behind me and punched me in the face hard enough to knock me out. He then kicked me so hard he shattered the bone underneath my eye in four places. After that, he started to stamp on my head repeatedly. My only saving grace in all of this was that I was out cold – I have no recollection of it.
"By the time I got to hospital, I was in horrific pain. My wife arrived to find me with half my face caved in, and my right eye sunken out of its socket. She was incredibly traumatised by seeing me like that, but we were both trying to comfort and reassure each other. Luckily, my sight started to return after a few hours, but I was told I needed major reconstructive facial surgery.
"I couldn't help feeling that he was also a victim. Something had happened in his life."
"I stayed awake in my hospital bed all night, completely focused on my attacker. I couldn’t get my head around how someone could carry out such horrific violence with no justification. Although he’d been using foul, racist language, I didn’t believe that the attack was racially motivated – he was so full of rage that I think he would have reacted in the same way if I had been white. As I lay there, I couldn’t help feeling that he was also a victim of some kind. Something had happened in his life which had manifested itself in this horrific, violent outburst. By the time the nurses were bringing round the breakfast trolleys, I’d decided to forgive him.
"I had surgery two days later – it took five hours for the doctors to put my face back together, and I still have four titanium plates holding the bones in place. I felt incredibly lucky to be alive.
"I spent 10 weeks at home recuperating. It was very difficult for my wife, who had to look after me round the clock. Meanwhile, Glenn – my attacker – was on the run. It took six weeks for the police to finally identify and arrest him. It turned out that Glenn had a history of violence and was also wanted for an earlier attack with a machete.
"I started to feel that I was nothing more than a bystander in this process, even though I was the victim."
"The trial was the most difficult thing I went through. I decided to go alone because I didn’t want to put anyone else through having to listen to the details of the attack. I knew that Glenn was pleading not guilty, and his lawyer really laid into the witnesses – myself included – to discredit their evidence. I started to feel that I was nothing more than a bystander in this process, even though I was the victim.
"For the whole week we were in court, Glenn refused to make eye contact with me. I’d already forgiven him, but I had to watch him lie as he refused to admit what he’d done. His heavily pregnant girlfriend was also in court, and I had to sit a few feet away from her. It was all very distressing, and Glenn’s lawyer was so effective at casting doubt on the evidence that it ended up with a hung jury. I had to go through the whole process again.
"The second trial had a completely different judge, and this time, it quickly became apparent that things weren’t going well for Glenn. As he was pleading not guilty, he was facing 10 to 14 years in prison if convicted. I knew he needed to be locked up for his own – and others’ – safety, but the idea of keeping someone inside for that long was quite abhorrent to me.
"He was full of remorse, and wanted to meet me too.."
"Halfway through the trial, Glenn stood up in court and changed his plea to guilty. For the first time, he looked at me, and put his hands together in a gesture which clearly asked for forgiveness. He was sentenced to five years, and both his girlfriend and myself broke down when we heard. I left the courtroom and was physically sick at the thought of Glenn going to prison, and possibly never recovering from the experience.
"After the trial, I was appointed a victim liaison officer by the probation service. I told them that I wanted to visit Glenn, but they made excuses about why that wouldn’t be possible. Meanwhile, my story had attracted a lot of media attention, and I was contacted by an organisation called The Forgiveness Project. They run a three-day restorative programme in prisons called Restore, and I started to go into prisons to share my story with groups of prisoners. The first time I did it, I sat in front of a group of 20 hardened criminals – I was incredibly nervous about telling my story to them. But I went ahead, and by the end, some of the men had tears in their eyes. The impact on me was profound.
"I kept persisting with my request to visit Glenn, but it was four years before I was even allowed to send him a letter. After months of chasing, I found out that Glenn had written back – he was full of remorse, and wanted to meet me too. Finally, after years of badgering and pestering, I was referred to an organisation in Nottingham called REBUILD. A week later, I met with Colin Wilson, a restorative justice facilitator. Suddenly, everything changed.
"Within a few months, Colin had managed to set up a meeting. At that point, I threw a bit of a spanner in the works. Having been involved in restorative work myself, I was aware of how powerful it might be for people to actually see a conference taking place. I suggested that my meeting with Glenn could be filmed, and then used as a resource for training and awareness.
"We talked about everything – what had happened that day, the trial, Glenn’s background, my background."
"It took months to set up the film, but finally, in April 2014, the day of the meeting arrived. I woke up that morning with a huge sense of relief, but I was also conscious that I needed to try not to have any expectations of what the day would bring. My heart was racing and I was anxious and nervous, but excited – I wanted to go into the meeting with an open heart and mind.
"The prison had gone to a lot of effort to make everyone comfortable, and the film crew had already been allowed into the prison to meet Glenn. They filmed Glenn’s walk from his cell to the meeting room, but the moment he walked through the door it was as if the cameras completely disappeared.
"We shook hands, and then, spontaneously, we hugged. It was totally unexpected, and I became very emotional and started crying. Colin started the conference by asking Glenn what had happened on the day he’d attacked me. Glenn, who’d been thinking about his answer for some time, started to blurt out his story as fast as possible – he was so keen to get to the point at which he could apologise. He broke down, and had to leave the room.
"Restorative justice introduced humanity into a situation that had dehumanised Glenn and myself. Victims and offenders can get so much out of it."
"I thought he wasn’t going to come back, but he pulled himself together and we carried on talking for another hour and a half. We talked about everything – what had happened that day, the trial, Glenn’s background, my background. And then we talked about the future – it seemed very natural to discuss how we were going to move forward, together. Glenn asked if I would write to him, and I offered to visit him. He said he wanted to move away from Nottingham when he got out, so I offered to help him with that. By the end of the meeting, it felt like we had become friends. That chapter had closed, and a new one had begun.
"I was ecstatic. I couldn’t have asked for anything more, and I think Glenn probably had his best night’s sleep in five years that night. Restorative justice introduced an element of humanity into a situation which had dehumanised both Glenn and myself. The process may seem difficult, but I think victims and offenders can get so much out of it. The only way to resolve conflict between people is to sit together, talk, and find a way to move forward. Not everyone will get out of it what I did, but restorative justice has an invaluable part to play in resolving conflict."
The Restorative Justice Council would like to thank Shad for sharing his story with us.
© Restorative Justice Council 2015 – do not reproduce without permission.
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