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 Restorative Justice brings closure to victim


When Mark Dobie was driving home on September 29, the last thing he expected was to be involved in a head on collision which would leave him with such serious injuries he would be in an induced coma for four weeks and have to undergo years of recovery.


But when Michael Shoulder made a decision to attempt a dangerous overtake on solid white lines, he would impact the lives of everyone around him.
The then 21-year-old had pulled out in his BMW on the stretch of Middridge Road, between Rushyford and Newton Aycliffe, when he hit Mr Dobie’s Ford Fiesta and caused so much damage that neither of them would be able to recollect the incident.
Mr Dobie suffered multiple rib and pelvic fractures, a broken femur and serious damage to internal organs.
The crash could have killed him.
He would spend months not just recovering from physical injuries, but also coming to terms with the emotional impact of the crash.
So when Mr and Mrs Dobie were offered the chance to take part in the Police, Crime and Victim’s Commissioners restorative justice scheme (The Restorative Hub) they knew they had to find answers.
Shoulder pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving in court and also indicated he would like to take part in the scheme which looks to help repair the harm done and look for a positive way forward with all parties.
“I didn’t want to meet at first but my wife said she wanted to speak to him again and I saw how it would be a chance for us to ask questions and get answers for what he had done to us,” Mr Dobie said. “As painful as it was and as strange and bizarre as it felt meeting him, it was a good outcome because we got to see for ourselves if he was genuine and you could see he was broken lad.
“He was genuine and it was clear he did not mean to do it which gave us a bit of closure too.”
The couple asked Shoulder to become a road safety advocate and use the experience to teach other young drivers to think twice when on the roads.
“I think it definitely gave him food for thought because I think he was expecting us to have a go at him but we wanted him to learn from it. It has helped me concentrate on getting back to being me.”
Shoulder was sentenced to 16 months in prison and banned from driving for 32 months, at Durham Crown Court on August 2.
Mr Dobie, 47, added: “In situations like this there’s no winners and it’s not about winning, it’s about getting the answers from what’s gone on and understanding why. We were able to put things at rest.”
Volunteer case coordinator, Carmen Ward, who supported Mr and Mrs Dobie through the process.
She said: “Restorative Justice in this case has been amazing because it’s allowed Mr and Mrs Dobie to be at the centre of proceedings and allowed them to put across how they were impacted by Mr Shoulder’s actions.
“Without them coming together, they would have just been two names on a file so it’s really about the people behind those names and creating a space within the criminal justice system where interested parties can talk safely and openly about their thoughts and feelings with a view to repairing harm.”