A hardened burglar who has turned his life around after meeting two of his traumatised victims is backing a new ‘restorative justice’ scheme.
To Peter Woolf, stealing a laptop to pay for his heroin habit could be justified - the owner was rich and could easily afford to replace it.
But when he was told that it had belonged to a heart and lung transplant surgeon and stored notes about critically ill patients as well as a research paper ready to be sent to the Lancet medical journal, the impact of his crimes suddenly hit home.
Mr Woolf thinks the restorative justice scheme, run in Middlesbrough, which is used as an alternative to the court system in a bid to stop re-offending, was the jolt he needed.
“When you hear the harm you have caused, you have to be a bitter and twisted person not to be affected,” said Mr Woolf, who had spent 18 years in prison. “I thought they would say ‘lock him up and throw away the key” but they wanted me to get help for drug and alcohol abuse, an education and a job.”