Sixth form pupils at Clifton College, Bristol, heard how a notorious “career criminal” turned his life around because of an innovative rehabilitation technique called restorative justice
Peter Woolf, a prolific offender who committed an estimated 20,000 crimes across the UK, discussed his life and unique story to more than 300 sixth form pupils at the College’s Redgrave Theatre. He gave his life story: from growing up around petty criminals and wassent to Wandsworth Prison at 17, and to becoming a career criminal and finally turning his life around after a chance encounter with one of his victims.
After hearing Mr Woolf’s unique story, pupils asked him questions about his life and experiences. He also showed a video where his story was juxtaposed with the experiences of his victim, Will, and explained how restorative justice helped them both to move on from the effects of crime.
The video demonstrated the ways that restorative justice was just as important for victims of crime, in that it helped them forgive their aggressors, understand the contextual reasons behind the crime and move on from their experiences.
He said that he is still in regular contact with the victim of his, Will, who he worked with as part of the process – and that restorative justice gives victims a voice that they are frequently denied.
Talking before the event, Mr Woolf said:
“I think it’s important for me to tell my story and for kids to hear the truth. My films also help, but I find that speaking to people and actually seeing their faces helps to get the message across.
“That said, anyone can be open to the idea – it’s how the idea is sold and makes the difference. I was chosen for the project at random, a number in a system – that’s all it was. I thought the idea of facing my victim was ridiculous. I didn’t want to do it, but I know now that had I not been chosen to be part of the scheme that I would be dead now.”
Jo Greenbury, Head of Sixth Form at Clifton College, organised the event and said that it was important that pupils could hear first-hand how both victims and perpetrators can learn and move on from the effects of crime.
“Peter’s testimony was stark and eye-opening but ultimately very rewarding. We were shown a perspective on the causes of crime, and a glimpse of its effects on both sides – while it’s hugely encouraging that restorative justice can have such a positive effect.
“The talk clearly affected our pupils in a positive way and I’d like to thank Peter for his time and sharing his fantastic story.”