AS she waited to meet the man who caused the car accident that killed her boyfriend, Meg Williamson began having second thoughts.

"It was my idea to meet him, but when I stood behind the door and was told I had a minute before I could walk in, I stood there for at least two. It was definitely the hardest bit,” she says.

She had decided to take part in an unconventional new victim support method which aimed to help those whose lives had been changed forever by crime get closure and force offenders to take responsibility for their actions.

The 27-year-old English teacher at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy had moved to Swindon with her boyfriend Gavin Roberts in 2014.

A few months later, Gavin was driving to work along the A34 on a Saturday evening in June when another driver driving along the southbound carriageway crashed through the central reservation and hit his car head-on.

He was taken to John Radcliffe Hospital, where doctors discovered that he had a life-threatening brain injury and performed an unsuccessful operation to relieve the pressure on his brain.

"We were told that we needed a miracle," Meg explains, "His family flew in from Australia to see him, it was the first time I'd met them."

After a four-day stay in hospital, they made the difficult decision to turn his life support off.

He died when he was just 28 years old and his donated organs saved the lives of seven people.

Meg continues, "It was quite a nice thing to come out of something so traumatic. I'd like to meet the people he saved, we've had letters from two of them saying their lives have completely changed and they're very thankful.

"It's nice to know that a little bit of Gavin's still living on."

Meg had spoken to her boyfriend just an hour before he was involved in the tragic accident.

"It was just general chit-chat, you don't expect him to not make it to work, to not see him the next day."

She received a call from a friend later that night telling her about what had happened.

The driver is currently serving a prison sentence of three years and eight months for causing the accident which lead to the death of Mr Roberts. He was also given a driving ban for four years and ten months.

Meg remembers the aftermath of the incident vividly, "When I was in the hospital I wanted to meet the other driver but that was purely out of anger.

"Gavin's mum reminded me that there's another family involved and they're suffering just as much as us.

"It took nine months for me to calm down and realise that Lewis just made a stupid mistake picking up his phone while he was driving."

The Restorative Justice initiative has been trialled in Bristol and Gloucestershire with encouraging results and is now being used to help people across Wiltshire.

Miss Williamson spoke about her experiences at the Restorative Together conference in Trowbridge earlier this month and sat down with the Adver before her talk to reveal more about what it was like to come face to face with the person responsible for her trauma.

She says, "I walked into the room and he broke down, he completely burst into tears, he just kept saying sorry but he knew that sorry was never going to be enough.

"I told him that I didn't hate him any more and we spent about an hour together talking non-stop about the accident and how we'd both been affected, though it felt a lot longer than an hour, it was really surreal.

"I was anxious and upset but it didn't really hit me until after the meeting because of the adrenaline, then my emotions poured out and I broke down."

Meg says that taking part in Restorative Justice helped her deal with her grief and empathise with the careless driver who caused her such heartbreak.

"I wouldn't say it lifted a weight off my shoulders but it filled a little bit of the empty hole inside because it gave me closure.

"Meeting him and realising that he's a normal 24-year-old who goes to work and enjoys football, it made me think that one day I might be able to forgive him.

"I don't want to hate him forever."

She now gives talks about the dangers of using mobile phones when driving and explaining how the Restorative Justice program can be beneficial for both victim and offender.

She says, "It wasn't an easy thing to do but it was definitely worth it, I'd recommend it.

"If you've got questions and there's a little bit of doubt or uncertainty about what happened, meeting the person that caused you so much pain will give you the opportunity to let them know that, and in some ways it could help them realise the upset they caused."

Making a difference to people's lives

A CONFERENCE on the effective way of helping victims of crime by bringing them face-to-face with those responsible for their pain was held last month.

It was the first event for Restorative Together, a group which aims to spread awareness of a victim support strategy that provides closure to those who have had their lives changed by crime and makes offenders face the consequences of their actions.

Guest speakers at the conference in Trowbridge included Swindon teacher Meg Williamson, featured left, who met the man who caused a car crash which left her boyfriend dead, and career criminal Peter Woolf, who turned his life around after he met one of the people he had burgled.

Also at the conference were Ray and Vi Donovan who confronted their son’s killers more than a decade after he died.

The day of workshops and speeches was attended by police officers, councillors and magistrates from Wiltshire who learned about the process, which has had a 95 per cent satisfaction rate among the victims who have chosen to take part in it.

Restorative Justice hopes to empower victims who often feel powerless or sidelined during the criminal justice process.

It makes criminals face up to the personal impact their crimes have had on the lives of others.

Last year, Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson commissioned a service for victims across the Wiltshire Police area known as Restorative Together to raise awareness of the RJ initiative.

The aim was to recruit people to help organise it in seven areas across the county, including three in Swindon.

Assistant Chief Constable for Wiltshire Police Keir Pritchard said: “Restorative Justice is at the heart of our community policing.

“Many people are seeing the benefits of it and you can see the reality of the concept land with staff we’re training. It’s powerful.

“I’m confident that here in Wiltshire we are doing the right thing by rolling this out further and building on its successes. It’s vital that we work on this together.”

Restorative Justice co-ordinator Inger Lowater talked about the project and stressed how important the conference was for it to grow so that they can help more people.

She said: “We’re still in a starting-up phase, it’s like building up a business from the bottom up so we need to get people together, as many as we can, and for them to hear from people like Peter and Meg. For the last six months we’ve been taking cases and so far, the people we’ve worked with have said it made a difference to them and their families.”