Letters from Headteachers and Staff
Christ Hospital School
Christ’s Hospital now uses restorative justice principles and techniques in its behaviour management approaches and staff have received specialist training. Pupil behaviour has improved and there is a strong sense of empathy and forgiveness running through the pastoral life of the school. Ray and Vi have contributed enormously to this culture shift and for that we are extremely grateful.
Jo Thomson Deputy Head, Christ’s Hospital.
Conservative candidate for the Sutton and Cheam constituency
I was lucky to catch Ray & Vi Donovan speak at a session held by at the Sutton Youth Centre this week. Ray & Vi set up the Chris Donovan Trust in memory of their son who was senselessly and brutally killed in 2001. Eleven years later they came face to face with the three young men who had been convicted of Chris’ murder. Ray & Vi’s retelling of the story was understandably raw and emotional as if it happened yesterday. Despite recounting their experience in prisons up and down the country, the audience could see the lasting hole in their life as a result of that evening 14 years ago, an evening made up of random chance decisions that set Chris walking up the pavement into the path of a 14-strong gang off their faces on drink and drugs and seeing Chris and his brother as an easy target for the violent acts that ensued.
The young people at the Youth Centre sat transfixed for an hour as they heard of the Donovan’s helplessness at the hospital, their anguish to hear that not only had their son died but his body was now the property of the coroner. Just as it seemed as it couldn’t get any worse, they discovered that they couldn’t bury Chris for another few weeks as the pathologist had to remove his brain to examine a particular enzyme to determine the exact cause of death. These months of hell would not have even entered the heads of the young men who stamped on Chris repeatedly and left him in the road to be run over by a car and carried forty feet. The years of prison and the effective removal of the remainder of their own teen years and twenties didn’t feature in their decision to run away shouting, “Leave him” after a neighbour had alerted the police.
Ray & Vi now travel around the country speaking about the benefits of restorative justice, a system designed to put the victim first. They met their son’s killers after they were released from prison, so having no effect on the length of the sentence. As well as giving them a sense of closure, their meetings with each of the killers gave those young men a chance to realise the effect of their crime, have an outlet for their remorse and start on a path of rehabilitation. Sentencing must always have an element of punishment but spending £40,000 each year per prisoner to lock them away from the world repeatedly after reoffending is impractical. The sensible long term approach must be to help prisoners turn their lives around through rehabilitation whilst serving the sentence that people would expect for the crime committed. It’s sensible that the government have made funding available to Police & Crime Commissioners to help deliver restorative justice over three years. Of course Ray & Vi’s work goes further than promoting restorative justice. The powerful retelling of their harrowing experience will surely have an effect on young people who may find themselves being pushed into joining a gang or committing a crime. They are constantly reminding people of the consequences of their actions beyond the intended victim; the ripple effect of their crime.
Taken from Cirencester college News letter
Also this month the Law and Public Service students joined the Sociology students for a talk about Restorative Justice from the Chris Donovan Trust. The Chris Donovan Trust is a non-profit charitable organisation set up by Vi and Ray Donovan who in 2001 experienced the tragic loss of their son Chris through violence. Using their own devastating experience they want to help educate people about the impact of crime on the victim, their family and wider society.
They do so by sharing their story and experience to a wide audience including students, criminal justice professionals, victims of crime and offenders. Their talk gave the students an emotional and real picture of how horrific violent crime is. Students were captivated by the Donovans who talked about respect not being gained through violence but by being true to yourself, thinking about your actions and ultimately through forgiveness.
They took students on a journey with them; from the night they were told their son had been senselessly murdered by three teenagers to ten years later when they met the offenders. Restorative justice finally gave Vi and Ray a voice and enabled them to meet the offenders and ask ‘why?’ A question that the Criminal Justice System could not answer for them. Vi and Ray did not sugar coat their loss or experiences; they opened up their hearts to the students. They taught students that Crime has a ripple effect and one action can affect so many people, as Ray said to the students ‘You are now part of that Ripple’.
This was an experience that the students will not forget; one they felt not only impacted on their studies but on their lives. One student emailed the trust that evening, and his words express what an impact the Chris Donovan Trust had; “I am just writing to say how much my friends and I appreciated your talk you did at Cirencester College on Wednesday. We all said after how much we were moved by what was said and how we all admired your ability to talk about your tragic loss. We are from the Uniformed Public Services course and we all aim to be able to help people like you one day. We thank you again for your inspiring talk”
Sociology Lecturer Mandy Fisher commented, “‘Students have found the additional activities both informative and engaging and look forward to more events in the future. They have also shown great maturity and respect to our guest speakers and are clearly great ambassadors of the college’.
A letter from Mandy Fisher / Sociology and Criminology lecturer.
Good evening Ray and Vi
I just wanted to thank you all for coming in today. I could see from the students expressions that you made such an impact on them and I know they will walk away with a new viewpoint and, I suspect, a lot of questions! Teachers can do a lot in lessons but we can not show them the true realities so to have people like you really enriches their learning, and their lives. I hope you will come back in the future and share your story and message with other students.
Ray and Vi Speaking at Wandle Valley School
Please click on the link below to read an article from Sutton Voice about Ray and Vi's talk at Wandle Valley School Sutton.
A quote from Mr P Butterworth, Headteacher Overton Grange school
Ray and Vi were amazing and I meant what I said at the end – I cannot remember a more powerful presentation and it is a really inspiring example of turning an appalling negative event into something positive.
A letter from a member of staff at Romans Field School in Milton Keynes
Dear Ray and Vi
Thank you for coming into our school. We were all so sorry for the loss of Christopher.
The talk was brilliant you explained how our actions have a consequence really well. You made us realise the amount of people we hurt when we do something stupid.
I took your DVD home and watched it with my mum, she though it was really good.
We hope that more children listen and put an end to gangs and knife crime.