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Recording No. 12

During the detached street session, the team called into a local shop on the estate...Gavan Wilmot made this recording.

Record of Facts

The owners of the shop are well known to the project and as a practice, various workers or the team visit the shop on a regular basis during the working week. The reason is the family have experienced racial harassment while living on the estate. Broken windows, verbal harassment, etc. On our visit we engage with various family members, being as supportive and empathetic as much as we can and to the level required of the family. Recently the father of the family had a window broken on his care in the driveway of the house. He witnessed the attacker perpetrating the act and called for the assistance of the police. The owner of the shop, Mr X was not happy with the police reaction and has been very upset since the incident occurred.

Subsequently, my supervisor on Mr X's permission has obtained anonymous advice from a local community unit police officer, as to Mr X's rights and a procedure to follow in order to further the investigation. My supervisor informed the various team members of the specific details obtained from the discussion with the police officer, in order for us to inform Mr X when the team visited the shop during the detached street session.

I took short, written notes of my supervisor's briefing, highlighting all the main points from her meeting with the police officer. I believed the notes could help the team reiterate accurately what was said at our visit to Mr X's shop.

On the street session that evening, just before we visited the shop, the team discussed the issue, briefing YC (a new member of the project team). I gave CD the written notes that I had taken that afternoon, so she could use them when talking to Mr X. As CD was the most experienced and senior member of the team, I assumed this role upon CD. As YC was on his first street session, his role was as observer.

In the shop, after introducing YC to Mr X, and some initial engagement, CD discussed the police procedural issues. During this discussion, Mr X became quite upset and confused, particularly on the issue of when and when not the police can take a statement. He seriously questioned what we were saying to him and said several times "Are you sure that is what the police officer said?". CD on reinstating the point referred to the written notes. The atmosphere became quite tense. Several times during the discussion, issues already stated were revisited. I became anxious that we as a team were stating important points without full knowledge or confidence in the specifics we were presenting. On a few occasions when I joined in the conversation, I stated that we would probably need to double-check the information the project had gathered from the police officer.  My feeling was that we could very well be wrong in the information we were giving. As the discussion seemed to be drawing to a conclusion, after many of the points had been reiterated, a lull entered the flow of the discussion. I interjected a diversion to the discussion by asking how Mrs X was keeping on her holiday; this seemed to lighten the atmosphere. I believed this conscious intervention in the conversation was necessary as all that needed to be state had been, and the reiteration of facts without certainty in their validity was unhelpful to the family.

The team stayed in the shop for several more minutes, CD reiterated the opportunity of anonymous advice from the police officer, Mr X thanked us for coming and we left to continue the street session.

Record of Observations

Why had I believed the atmosphere to be tense in the shop that evening and so affected me that I believed it necessary to intervene and change the course of the conversation?

The basis of my tension was the written notes I had taken before the street session dictated the framework