Interview with Professor Nicola Lacey
Mar 08, 2011
Professor Nicola Lacey is a Senior Research fellow and Professor of criminal theory at All Souls College, University of Oxford. She was in New Zealand recently to give the 2010 Shirley Smith Address on the subject of the Politics of Punishment. We took the opportunity to pick her brain.
....Rethinking: Someone said something to me the other day about how if we are going to put the requirements of victims in this process it should be their needs, rather than their wants.
NL: Exactly. You need to have the debate about which needs can legitimately be met by the criminal justice process.
Rethinking: It strikes me that the Justice system is supposed to be an almost cold and impartial system in many respects and this call for vengeance is the exact opposite.
NL: That’s right. We have had a sort of overreaction. Of course it is true that up until 25 years ago victims simply weren’t given enough consideration in our system and they didn’t have a role. It was more than that, they were just ‘dissed.’ They would turn up and there would not be anywhere proper for them to sit in the court. Often they were not informed about the progress of cases so you have a rape victim who suddenly sees the man who she believes has raped her out in the street and she hasn’t even been told. There were huge problems and victims just weren’t thought about and it was terrible.
But the trouble is that because that has now got on to the agenda, we have gone over the top. It seems to me that it is absolutely appropriate that there are vigorous information streams to victims and that there should have been voluntary sector or government funded support schemes for victims. Victims should have somewhere safe to sit in court where they don’t have to be seen or feel vulnerable to getting abused or embarrassed by the defendant’s family or supporters. All that seems absolutely straight forward and right. But to then take the extra step - and this is really what Dame Sian Elias was arguing in her ‘Shirley Smith’ lecture last year - that to take the extra step to give them decision making powers just seems wrong.