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The Andrew Mitchell Fiasco

     Oh for goodness sake!

Any Restorative practitioner worth their salt could have sorted this whole Andrew Mitchell 'Plebgate' affair out within days.

It's been a year since this incident in Downing Street and still as I write, there is no resolution in sight.

It seems like yet another police investigation is underway. Goodness knows how much public money has been wasted on this already, let alone the distress to Mitchell and his family.

To resolve the matter to everyone's satisfaction is precisely why Restorative Practices exist and so are so effective.

Instead, we have this insistence on receiving an apology from the police officers that is causing a blockage. Is an apology really what Andrew Mitchell wants? Has anyone asked him?

And if he says yes it is, I want to know his response to the very tested and effective restorative questions, 'What need of yours will an apology meet?' or 'What would be good about that for you?' And questions like this are not designed to catch someone out. They're asked because that seek to confirm the apology as significant for him or not.

If not, the intention behind this type of questioning is to open a door to something that he'd like that's even more important as a way to close this affair.

But of course, to ask questions like those with the aim of encouraging understanding, making amends and moving on from the incident having learned something of value requires a change of approach, from the mindlessly punitive, 'might is right', 'do what we tell you to do' approach.

The 'movie' I'm running in my mind in the current situation is of the officers being treated like children who have irritated a parent or teacher and are being told to be 'good boys and say sorry'.

They are refusing to do this. Has anyone got curious enough to ask why they are refusing? Why most of us would experience some kind of resistance to this insistence.

Could it be that they are hearing this as a demand?

That behind the insistence is the message that 'we are right and you are wrong'?

I heard an MP being interviewed on BBC Radio 5 the other day in regard to this affair, and he was declaring that there wasn't a problem with the police force culture.

Doh! Of course there is. As with most of the industrialised world, there is a problem created by the blame culture.

This creates a 'zero tolerance' for mistakes to be made and owned, which in turn leads to a range of devious strategies being devised to either deny or shift the blame to someone else.

Ironically then, in the case of the criminal justice system, it creates a dishonest, deceitful climate with the emphasis on avoiding making mistakes and if that does happen, not being found out.

This means that people pay more attention to protecting themselves and their reputation than carrying out the work that they're employed to do as public servants.

I don't for a moment believe that this is a problem confined to the British police force. Health, education and social work services also operate out of this framework.

However, it's not a problem that exists in the restorative world because in this world, the emphasis is on us being:

accountable to those we share our lives with and taking the responsibility to make amends if our words and actions have caused harm to the relationships between us.It's a great world to live in.

It allows us to be transparent and authentic in our communication.

It allows us the freedom to make mistakes, to overstep the mark sometimes and to learn from that. This means that we develop our skills of communication and strengthens the relationships that we have with those with whom we share our world.

Because of the limits of the criminal justice system, I feel sad that Andrew Mitchell and his family haven't been given the chance to step into this world. It would do much for them, and the advancement of an approach that is about fairness, safe engagement with others and true justice.

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Peter Burton is passionate about communicating in a way that creates trusting, robust relationships and how to put things right when they go wrong between us. A teacher, author and coach, he is dedicated to helping you learn these vital skills. Want to know more? Time to visit

Posted on 2013-10-28, By: *

* Click on the author's name to view their profile and articles!!!

Note: The content of this article solely conveys the opinion of its author.

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