An Examination of Young Offenders' Subjective Interpretations of an Apology within Restorative Justice Conferencing on the Isle of Man

  • Scott Anthony Wilson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


There has been an increase in the use of restorative justice (RJ) interventions with young offenders. One of the most effective is the RJ conferencing (RJC) typology, considered fully restorative, where all parties affected by an offence are brought together in a face-to-face meeting where the offending actions and their impact are discussed. One of the RJC features is that the intervention achieves one of the victims' needs through the therapeutic potential of receiving an apology from an offender. The academic literature provides information on how victims construct an apology and what they desire to be effective from an offender's apology. However, very few articles have focused on young offenders who may offer this form of amends during an RJC, recognising a gap in the literature and research into how an apology is viewed, understood and constructed, which is one aspect that this study considers.
This research contributes to academic knowledge by providing insights into how young offenders view, understand and construct an apology from their RJC experience. Furthermore, victim research has tended to use research samples consisting of surrogate victims, fictional scenarios, questionnaires, and surveys to offer a construct of a victim apology. Through an interpretive research design, the study aims were achieved by examining young offenders' subjective understandings, views, and constructions of the apology they may have offered during their RJC experience on the Isle of Man (IOM). There was a review of existing academic literature, non-participatory observations (15), and semi-structured interviews (20) with young offenders. According to specific sampling criteria, the participants were selected purposefully to ensure they could reflect upon various experiences.
One of the key findings was that the scripted questions used in RJC sessions could be perceived as coercive by prompting the apologies but not considering the motivational factors and real meaning behind these admissions. One motivation to apologise could be to avoid being shunned by the offender’s support structure consisting of family and friends who may influence the perpetrator to provide a genuine apology to their victim. However, the RJC format promotes restorative dialogue encouraging engagement, reflection and understanding of the impacts of the offence; these questions and their structure warrant a discussion around the concerns of control. This questions the freedom in their responses as young people may be steered in a particular direction.
This study revealed that as harm increased, victims felt more strongly that an apology was necessary, and a complex apology was required if severe harm had been perpetrated. An apology reduced these aggressive feelings in victims and improved their general impressions of offenders. Further research on the long-term benefits of an apology should address the benefits of voluntary apologies compared to prompted ones.
Through reflective practice during the completion of this thesis, the advantages of this form of learning style that embraces the concepts of constructivism and reflection became apparent as advantageous in RJC sessions. Ultimately the format of these sessions could change after due consideration is given to the scripted questions and the validity of reflection.
Date of Award19 Jul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorDennis Gough (Supervisor) & Nick Pamment (Supervisor)

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