Paul Kohler and restorative justice

I switched on my car radio earlier this week and was surprised to hear a familiar voice.  It was Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem PPC in our top target constituency of Wimbledon. In fact I had been in a meeting with him the evening before when he was talking about his campaigning strategies.

But Paul was not engaging in a political debate on this occasion. Instead he was discussing a horrific incident that had involved him and his family some years ago. The series title is “Forgiveness: Stories from the Front Line” and each programme features someone who has had to, as the programme notes state, “struggle with forgiveness in order to be free”.

One day Paul answered his front door and was pushed over by four masked men asking him where the money was. Apparently they had gone to the wrong house, but they attacked and beat him badly, and also threatened his wife. Unknown to them Paul’s daughter and her boyfriend were in the house and they managed to call the police, who came quite promptly and probably saved Paul’s life. Two of the intruders were arrested immediately and the others were tracked down later. All four were given prison sentences.

The crux of the story was not this awful experience but what followed. The family were invited to take part in a restorative justice meeting with one of the assailants. It is this encounter that Paul describes in a way that I found powerful and moving. You really do need to listen to it to understand why. The meeting ended with the two men shaking hands, and Paul realising that he could forgive him.

Paul said that this event changed his whole life.  He became politicised, angry about the way his story had been used by the press to support Brexit (his attackers were Polish), and getting involved in local campaigns. He then became a Lib Dem councillor in the London Borough of Merton and is now hoping to enter Parliament.

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your story.




* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • A very good example of why we need to get Paul elected

  • Suzanne Fletcher 9th Feb '24 - 9:12am

    I’d not heard that episode of a very moving and thoughtful programme. Good to hear Paul has been talking about restorative justice. It isn’t going to solve all of the problems in the criminal system, but is a very healthy way forward in life for victims if they can undergo this process, as well as making it more possible for the perpetators to move on.
    Well done for a politician to speak in more than populist soundbites.

  • Linda Chung 9th Feb '24 - 12:19pm

    I happened to be listening at the time and realised it was Paul when he mentioned saving the police station and that he became politicised only after that life-threatenig experience. The majority of the population, from academics such as Paul, to my local refuse collector, take ‘government’ for granted and are disinterested in what politics is or does, unless it affects their pockets. The messages we now need to communicate are that Paul chose the Lib Dems rather than the other parties and to inspire other people to do so.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Feb '24 - 1:44pm

    Stuff, some of it beyond imaginations happens. Part of society’s function is to help its members deal with it and move on. Forgiveness is an integral part of that. We all have the capacity to become better people whatever we have said or done previously.

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