A COUPLE left devastated after a burglar stole their disabled son’s belongings, have spoken of how they came face-to-face with the thief.
Rose and Ritchie Turnbull were approached by police and asked if they wished to meet the man who had turned their lives upside down.
The idea formed part of a restorative justice scheme introduced by Durham Constabulary.
Mr Turnbull, 52, who is a driver for Stagecoach buses based in Deptford, Sunderland, opted out of the meeting at HMP Durham, where the 29-year-old is serving his five-year sentenced.
However his wife, Rose, took part in the 90-minute meeting along with Pcs Ian Sanders and Simon Hehir and the criminal, who had agreed to take part.
During the session, Mrs Turnbull, a carer for son, Ian, 23, who has Down’s Syndrome, was able to explain the impact and upset the theft had caused.
The criminal had crept into their Seaham home through an unlocked door and took the keys to the Peugeot 206.
She also told him how a pool cue in the car had been bought for Ian by his friends from a caravan park in Northumberland as a birthday present and since the theft, he had not played again.
The man apologised and explained how he had not specifically targeted the family, but had been an opportunist and wanted cash to fund his drug habit.
Mrs Turnbull said: “I was expecting some big evil person, but I just thought he’s somebody’s bairn.
“You could walk past him, in the street and not look at him twice.
“At the end of the meeting we were all drained, but glad we went through it.
“I think he was genuine in wanting to change. He used to have a good job and a mortgage, but fell in with the wrong crowd and got into drugs.”
She added the meeting had also helped her come to terms with the theft and move on.
Mr Turnbull added: “Even if it only works with one in 10, it has to be worth trying.
“We know now that he didn’t target us specifically and was just on the lookout to pinch anything to help pay for his drug habit.”
IT is hoped the new Restorative programme will improve confidence in the criminal justice system and make offenders more accountable for their actions.
It will also allow local officers more discretion when dealing with lower level crimes and antisocial behaviour.
Chief Inspector Alison Jackson, pictured right, who is leading the project, said: “Restorative justice has the potential for making a huge difference in the lives of victims and how they feel they have been treated.
“While the process retains a corporate approach, it also gives front-line officers the opportunity to use their professional discretion and common sense.
“This is all about being more customer-focused and challenging criminal or antisocial behaviour in a structured manner.”