A meeting with a former paramilitary and convicted murderer in Northern Ireland gave probation service officer David Masters his first insight into the power of restorative justice and persuaded him that a career in probation was for him….
Prior to joining Wales CRC’s Swansea office David studied Reconciliation Studies at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Belfast where one of his tutors was Alistair Little, a former member of the Protestant paramilitary organisation Ulster Volunteer Force.
In 1975, Mr Little, then aged 17, shot dead a 19-year-old Catholic in front of the victim’s 11-year-old brother. He was sent to prison for 13 years.
Years later his story was made into the award-winning film Five Minutes of Heaven, which starred Liam Neeson. The film featured a powerful and fictional interpretation of a meeting between Little and his victim’s brother, who was played by James Nesbitt.
David said: “My degree course in Reconciliation Studies was about bringing together the communities in Northern Ireland after the Troubles. As part of that course I got to meet Alistair and that had a profound effect on me.
“He was very relatable and that’s when I realised that offenders are people who’ve made mistakes — sometimes big mistakes — and the acts they have committed can shape their whole life.
“Alistair regretted his actions for his whole life. And the fictional reimagining of the meeting between Alistair and his victim’s family in Five Minutes of Heaven gave me an insight into the power of restorative justice.”
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