Rugby Union: Gareth Thomas and ‘restorative justice’

By Amrit j\Johal, Sports Legal Consultant, AJ Consulting, London, United Kingdom

Former Welsh Rugby Union Captain, Gareth Thomas, suffered a criminal attack on 17 November 2018, and has turned to ‘restorative justice’ – rather than a criminal prosecution – to deal with the matter.

Thomas came out in December 2009 as being ‘gay’ – the only openly gay rugby union player to do so to date.

In 2010, he was voted the most influential gay person in the UK.

Thomas suffered bruising to his head and the left side of his face in his home city of Cardiff in the attack, which he has described as a hate crime that was motivated by his sexuality.

Instead of the police prosecuting the offender, a sixteen-year-old, Thomas preferred to deal with the attack by way of ‘restorative justice’ saying that the young offender would learn more from this process rather than going down the criminal route.

Under the system of ‘restorative justice’, which focusses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with the victim and the wider community, the victim of the crime may confront the offender to find out, amongst other things, the offender’s personal circumstances and the reasons behind the criminal behaviour involved.

Whilst one only can admire Thomas for meeting, talking and making his peace with the offender, one needs, at the same time, to ask the nagging question of whether the public interest in the criminal justice system of prosecuting and punishing offenders is being properly served by dealing in this way with what is, after all, in the Thomas case, a serious criminal offence?

Amrit Johal may be contacted by e-mail at ‘amrit@aj.consulting’