Burglar sorry for stealing veteran's ashes

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Justice

A burglar who stole the ashes of a Royal Navy war veteran, and threw them away, has apologised. He was jailed for 20 months, but wrote a letter to the dead man's family, saying that he didn't think the sentence was long enough. He then offered them the opportunity to give him a 'beating' on his release.

The apology distressed the family - but we could be seeing more of them in future.

Ashes

James Greenwood, a 43-year old from Burnley in Lancashire, burgled a home and took a casket containing the ashes of John Clarkson, a WWII veteran. When he realised what was inside the casket he threw the ashes into a nearby bin. Council staff searched landfill for two days but were unable to find it.

Clarkson's granddaughter, Claire Wynn told the Daily Mail: "No court in the country would send him to prison for as long as he deserves – because what he did to my family was unforgivable. It was a disgusting crime. For him to offer amends by taking a beating was the final insult. We don't want to hear from him at all."

The courts have given him a five year restraining order preventing him from contacting the family.

More common

Clearly the letter, and the language Greenwood chose, distressed the family. However, apologies from criminals are becoming increasingly commonplace, as the courts move towards what is known as restorative justice.

In one case last month a cyclist in Newhaven felt he had been cut up by a car, so was abusive towards the driver and smashed one of his car windows. After he was found guilty of criminal damage, the driver contacted Sussex Police and asked to meet the offender to seek an apology.

In a Restorative Justice conference the victim secured an apology. He added: "Very importantly for me, by the end of the conference I felt that some of the dignity I felt I'd lost by becoming a victim of crime in the way I did on the day of the offence and in the weeks following had been restored to me by the way I conducted myself in the conference."

This approach is likely to become increasingly widespread in Scotland in particular, as MSP's have voted for new restorative justice measures. These could include face-to-face meetings between victims and criminals, to encourage them to take responsibility for their crimes, understand the consequences, and apologise.

Victim Support recognises that the process is not beneficial for all victims, but stressed that at the moment only 1% of victims are offered this approach. It feels the figure should be closer to 100%.