Sheffield mum hugged shoplifter who hit her in the face
A Sheffield mum who was bludgeoned in the head by a fleeing shoplifter later came face-to-face with her attacker '“ and hugged him.
Shannel Johnson was working in a convenience store in Totley when she spotted two young men hanging around the alcohol aisle.
She approached them and asked for ID. When neither produced any, Shannel told them they would not be served any alcohol and carried on with her duties.
But then she noticed the pair walking towards the exit carrying a large – rattling – handbag.
Shannel, of Totley, said: “I followed them towards the exit and got to the door before they did.
“I said, ‘Whatever you have in that bag – hand it over.’”
But the shoplifters were not giving up that easily.
Shannel said: “The one carrying the bag picked it up, swung it round and hit me straight in the face. The blow caused me to fall into him and we both fell out of the door.”
The shoplifters then fled, leaving the bag of alcohol behind.
Luckily, the incident did not cause Shannel any serious injuries.
“Afterwards I felt very vulnerable, especially when I was working late at the store,” she said. “But it also affected my family. My partner was very angry and worried.”
A few months after the incident, Shannel was approached by the restorative justice team to see if she would like to meet the person who assaulted her.
Despite being anxious, she agreed and came face-to-face with the offender in September 2014.
“When we got there I was told the young lad, who was about 17, was very nervous and wanted me to speak first,” said Shannel.
“So I began by talking about the experience from my point of view. When I said that he had hit me, I could see his face drop.
“I honestly don’t think he had realised what he’d done as he was in such a hurry to leave the store and it was a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“I explained how the incident had affected me, my anger, and I could tell how sorry he was. At the end of the meeting we got up to shake hands – but ended up hugging as it just seemed like the right thing to do. I know he was old enough to know better, but I have a teenage daughter and I know we all make mistakes. I actually felt quite sorry for him.”
Shannel was so inspired by the meeting that she began working as an administrator for the restorative justice team, a job she continues to enjoy almost two years later.
Luke Thorold became a victim of crime while delivering pizzas in the Abbeydale Road area of Sheffield one New Year’s Eve.
En route to a delivery address a group of youngsters – with covered faces – began pelting him with missiles in a bid to make him fall off the bike.
“There were all sorts being thrown at me,” said Luke, of Grimesthorpe. “Empty cans, there was even a Stella bottle thrown at me.”
He added: “To suffer that kind of abuse while you are trying to work is really unpleasant. It makes you feel worthless and it really knocked my confidence.”
A few months later 32-year-old Luke, who is now a mechanic, was approached by the restorative justice team and agreed to meet the offender.
Despite an awkward start to the meeting, it didn’t take long before positivity prevailed.
“At first he didn’t want to admit that he’d done anything wrong and I was thinking, ‘This is going to be pointless,’” said Luke.
“But after a while he turned to me and said, ‘I see what I’ve done wrong and I’m sorry’.”
Luke said the offender – who was 14 when he committed the crime – had not been in a good place at the time.
“He wasn’t doing very well at school,” said Luke.
“He wasn’t engaging and was getting poor grades. I’ve since found out that he’s now making good grades. He’s not quite a straight-A student, but he’s hitting average Bs, so I’m told.”
Luke added: “Meeting my offender really helped me to move forward. I’m pleased it was positive for him too.
“It just shows what a valuable service it is.”
Anyone interested in self-referring to the South Yorkshire Restorative Justice Hub can visit www.restorativesouthyorkshire.co.uk or @restorativesy