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Meeting criminals helps the healing

Oct 09, 2013

From the article by Tess McClureon

For Linda Dyne, meeting her son's killer was the first step toward moving on.

When 25-year-old Justin Dyne disappeared in winter 2000, Dyne never saw him again.

Months later, his strangled body was found dumped in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges, and Tristan Lawson, 22, received a life sentence for his murder.

For years, Dyne struggled to move past her anger.

"I loved my son dearly and had a special bond with him because he had a disability. So to lose him just broke my heart," she said.

But two years after Justin's death, Linda chose to meet Tristan through a restorative justice (RJ) conference, where victims meet offenders to discuss the impact of the crime and seek ways of redressing harm.

Dyne "felt compelled" to meet Tristan to try and understand what had happened.

When she did meet Lawson at Wellington Prison, Dyne said he could not look her in the eye.

By the time she left, Dyne had hugged Tristan and told him she wanted to forgive him.

As of this month, thousands more victims of crime will be able to access RJ services, following a $4.4 million funding boost. Justice Minister Judith Collins said the expanded services would be rolled out from the start of October.

The funding will double the number of restorative justice conferences in Christchurch, and services will be opened in courts across the country.

The Government aims to triple meetings nationwide, offering 3600 conferences by 2015.

Dyne said meeting the person behind the crime was "incredibly healing".

"You battle with the whole forgiveness thing and, it takes a long time to get your head around it," she said. "But I think anger and all sorts of horrible emotions can eat you up if you let them and it can really stunt you moving on."

A Christian, Dyne said she could not have forgiven Tristan without the help of God.

Dyne said expanding the services was "just fantastic". "It just delights me. This gives victims an option to move on," she said.

For Emma Woods, meeting the teenager responsible for her son's death was just a small part of trying to move forward.

Four-year-old Nayan Woods was killed in 2010 when teenager Ashley Austin lost control of his car and crashed into the family as they walked home.

While the family did not use a court-arranged restorative justice programme, Emma Woods said meeting her son's killer helped her to gain knowledge and understanding in an "overwhelming and confusing situation".

"It helped me to let go of some anger, because it allowed me to see the person behind the mistake and to gain a better appreciation of his remorse," she said.

But for Woods, meeting Austin was "only part of the process".

Read the full article.

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