Talk about a bizarre reunion.
An unusual story out of Australia shows that even though someone may be a hardened criminal, they may still have feelings of remorse. It also shows that even their victims can forgive and forget if they don’t take things too personally.
The Daily Mail reports that Christopher Howard Gordon, 35, knocked on the door of a home in the Victorian town of Traralgon in Australia last March, holding a fake gun. When a man opened the door, Gordon demanded that he be allowed in the home and that the owner give him cash.
The man led him into a room where his daughter and partner slept. After seeing the sleeping child, Gordon was startled and immediately fled the home after receiving a box of cash.
The next night, Gordon went out to a video poker lounge 40 minutes from where he had robbed the man. In a bizarre coincidence, Gordon and the victim were there simultaneously. Instead of fleeing the scene, Gordon apologized to the man telling him that he was given the wrong information from an acquaintance. He had no idea that children would be present, and just wanted some “cash and weed.”
The victim accepted the apology, and the two sat beside each other playing poker, with Gordon handing the victim the cash that he had stolen. At the night's end, Gordon asked the victim for a ride home, and he obliged.
When Gordon appeared in court for sentencing, the judge noted that his actions showed remorse for his crimes. "You and the victim sat near each other on the slot machines while you intermittently handed the victim $150 to $200," Judge Arushan Pillay said, according to ABC Australia.
"When the venue closed at midnight, you asked the victim for a lift home, who eventually agreed to this. I consider that your words and actions to the victim demonstrate a level of immediate remorse,” the judge added.
Gordon was granted time served and released from jail.
So, will the fact that Gordon experienced remorse for his crimes deter him from robbing someone else? The most recent research, albeit from nine years ago, shows that remorse plays a big role in determining recidivism rates, but there’s a difference between whether people feel guilt or shame for their actions.
“When people feel guilt about a specific behavior, they experience tension, remorse, and regret,” the researchers wrote in a 2014 article published by Psychological Science. “Research has shown that this sense of tension and regret typically motivates reparative action — confessing, apologizing, or somehow repairing the damage done.”
Researchers found that criminals who feel a sense of guilt are less likely to commit another crime than those who feel shame. Those who felt shame were more likely to feel defensive, blame others and return to their old ways.
The question is, did Gorgon feel guilt or shame for his actions? He blamed his acquaintance for sending him to the wrong address but accepted responsibility for his actions by paying the man back. Time will tell if Gordon learns from this episode and gets his life back on track.