- Showing 3 posts filed under: System [–] published between Mar 01, 2010 and Mar 31, 2010 [Show all]
Restorative Justice Centre's submission to Ministry of Justice on victims' rights
The Restorative Justice Centre at AUT University in New Zealand has responded to a discussion draft titled "A Focus on Victims of Crime: A Review of Victims' Rights" on how the government might better address the needs of crime victims. Following are excerpts from RJC's response:
9. The central justice needs of victims are submitted to be accountability, vindication, empowerment, information, truth-telling and future safety. Only the first and last of these are addressed (to some degree) by the current legal process, and then only when the offender is convicted. Thus in crimes that go largely unreported, such as sexual offences, there can be no feeling of accountability in the absence of alternative processes, and victims remain unsafe.
10. The remaining four central justice needs are those which Dr Howard Zehr, known to and used by MoJ as a consultant in restorative justice, has said are “especially neglected”. They are next mentioned separately. However they overlap with needs identified by other writers.
Death row lets victims' families down
Most debates about the criminal justice system and restorative justice are criticised for not focusing enough on the impact that violence has on victims and their families. Those objections multiply tenfold when the issue at hand is capital punishment: bring up the subject and many death penalty supporters will say that executions are the only way to meet survivors' needs for justice and closure, and that to oppose capital punishment is to be anti-victim. "What if it was your own son or mother?" they ask. "Wouldn't you want the perpetrator die at the hands of our justice system?"
As it turns out, the truth is rather different. During last week's fourth world congress against death penalty in Geneva, the voices of murder victims' families painted a picture seldom seen in the media. For a variety of reasons, a growing number of families do not support capital punishment. However, all families face decades of legal appeals over the execution of the perpetrator – a truly agonising wait for anyone seeking closure.
What role should crime victims play in plea bargains?
Prosecutors represent the state, not crime victims, and they're charged with seeking justice, not convictions. But the Houston Press published a feature questioning whether prosecutors should be required to notify crime victims or get their sign-off before entering into a plea deal. The Harris County DA's Office says "There is no obligation to give advance notice to all victims of plea bargains," a policy which has the Mayor's crime victim advocate Andy Kahan hopping mad.