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Councillor meets abuser who said she ‘shouldn’t be in this country’

Written by on 20/10/2020

A Sheffield councillor who was the victim of a hate crime said that she and her abuser could be friends.

Green Party Councillor for Broomhill and Sharrow Vale, Kaltum Rivers, was racially abused by a stranger as she shopped on The Moor in September.

She had been shopping with her son when she said that a man called her a “crafty migrant” and told her that she “shouldn’t be in this country”.

Cllr Rivers took to Twitter to share her anger at the unprovoked attack and said that the man was a “racist bigot”.

But now, a month after the attack, Cllr Rivers has said that she and the man could be friends – if they had met under different circumstances.

Both took part in what is known as a ‘restorative justice’ meeting, where offenders and their victims get the opportunity to sit down and discuss whatever incident has led to the meeting.

After the attack on September 12, Cllr Rivers had contacted police who were later able to locate the offender – a man in his 70s.

Having agreed to sit down with Cllr Rivers for the restorative justice meeting, the two found out that they had lots in common and could otherwise have been friends.

Cllr Rivers met Tom – which is not his real name – at Snig Hill Police Station last week.

She said: “When I walked into the room, I could instantly see Tom was remorseful, he apologised so many times and it was quite an emotional conversation.

“We spoke about our upbringings, our backgrounds and realised we had a lot in common, if we had met in another scenario, we could have been neighbours, maybe friends.

“I made it clear how upsetting it had been and the impact his comments and behaviour had had on me, and my children.

“As the conversation developed, he explained his own situation, that he had personal issues which were affecting him and that he had let them get out of control that day.”

South Yorkshire Police, who had arranged the meeting, said that Tom had described the experience as “difficult but important”.

PC Jamie Beet, who organised the meeting between Cllr Rivers and Tom, said that restorative justice meetings are not always appropriate but, where they are, can help offenders and victims to find resolution and closure.

PC Beet said: “It aims to find a resolution which does not criminalise the offender and provides closure for the victim. It’s not always suitable, but after I had spoken to them both, I thought it might be a really powerful option.

“The man who abused Kaltum had no previous police background and appeared desperately remorseful when I visited him.”

PC Beet continued: “He showed great remorse for what he had done, which was hard to see but also a really great outcome.

“Restorative justice does not work for everything, this just happened to be a moment where everything aligned. It’s something I’m passionate about and I’m pleased it worked out.

“I would like to make it really clear that if you are a victim of hate crime, like Kaltum was, that you must report it to us. We can take action, which may be enforcement, but there are other options too.”

Cllr Rivers said that the outcome of the meeting was “painful but rewarding” and she added that she could not see any other outcome: “Criminalising this man wouldn’t have been the answer, it wouldn’t have felt good for anyone involved.

“He abused me because of my ethnicity, but if I see him again, we will stop and have a coffee.”