Linda Womwell from Castle Bromwich was devastated when her ‘sentimentally priceless’ jewellery was taken from her home in December 2007.
“It was upsetting,” the 62-year-old said. “I was so, so angry.”
But it wasn’t just her belongings, Linda felt her confidence had been stolen in the burglary too.
“I was afraid to be left in my home on my own,” she added.
So when Linda was invited to meet the man responsible, she was nervous but curiosity got the better of her.
“I had pictured a scruffy-looking young man, perhaps a drug addict or an alcoholic.
“When I met him I was gobsmacked. He was in his forties, nothing like I’d imagined.”
Linda admitted that her first reaction had been wanting to hit him but listening to his story, the retired pay roll clerk actually found herself pitying the offender.
“He told me he’d had a good childhood but when he was 15, he got into trouble with the police as part of a gang. Once you get into that roundabout, it’s hard to get off. The more he spoke, the more I understood why he did what he did.
“He was very apologetic and said he didn’t want to re-offend. I found myself thinking, if I could help him, I would. Then I thought, am I crazy? This man burgled my house.
“They might be burglars but it doesn’t mean they’re bad people. I don’t feel so scared now.”
More than 100 offenders and victims have already taken part in restorative justice, which aims to give victims the chance to tell offenders about the real impact of their crime.
It can be complementary to punishment, as in Linda’s case where her burglar was jailed, or replace the formal criminal justice system for minor crimes if both sides agree. West Midlands Police are now considering extending the pilot.