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Victims' Role in the Criminal Justice System

Descriptive and conceptual articles about the role of victims in the criminal justice system.

What role should crime victims play in plea bargains?
Civil Authority & Moral Authority
In my view, the "justice system" and civil authority should be a facilitator of justice. Civil authority has the unique responsibility to restrain offenders by [...]
Crime vitims rights
I firmly believe, if the victim wishes, be alloowed to see, meet and question her attacker. I support this Bill.
Restorative justice a basic right
I concur with Texas, that it is a basic human right for victims to meet with their offenders in the presence of a SKILLED facilitator [...]
Giving crime victims the right to meet with their offenders: Virginia legislative developments
by Lisa Rea Should a crime victim have a right to meet his/her offender? It is very good to see that the Virginia State Legislature is considering the benefits that come with victim offender dialogue and restorative justice programming in general. According to Associated Press reporter Dena Potter's article in the Washington Examiner the proposed legislation is HB 913, authored by Delegate Robert B. Bell in the Virginia Legislature.
Giving crime victims the right to meet with their offenders: Virginia legislative developments
by Lisa Rea Should a crime victim have a right to meet his/her offender? It is very good to see that the Virginia State Legislature is considering the benefits that come with victim offender dialogue and restorative justice programming in general. According to Associated Press reporter Dena Potter's article in the Washington Examiner the proposed legislation is HB 913, authored by Delegate Robert B. Bell in the Virginia Legislature.
Wright, Martin. 2004. The rights and needs of victims in the criminal justice process. Published in: H. Kaptein and M Malsch, eds. Crime, victims and justice: essays on principles and practice. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.
Let us begin by thinking about the whole picture: not only restorative justice, but the purpose of the criminal law, which I assume to be to create a just and stable society. I will not say much about the problems of conventional justice, which we all know, or the theory of restorative justice; I will concentrate on how it could work in practice, and I hope that the theory will be reflected by the practice. (excerpt)
Short thoughts on justice
Max Thorn, writing in Notes from the Land of Nod: I realized first-hand the linear nature of our justice system. We have set up a system that can exclude the very people involved in the case. We have a system that did not allow me to meet my perpetrator in court and forgive him. (They refused to give me his contact information.) I could not even choose whether or not to press charges on a case that so directly involved me.
Booth, Tracey. Justice, Politics and Family Victims: The Humanisation of Sentencing in Homicide Cases
Tracey Booth begins by pointing to developments in the last two decades that have given victims integral roles in courtroom procedures and sentencing practices. This contrasts with the marginalization and even exclusion of victims in the common practice of the adversarial criminal justice system. Since 1989 Australian state governments have enacted legislative reforms that empower victims of crime. For example, family victims (relations or close friends of deceased victims) now have a limited right to participate at the sentencing stage. In this paper, Booth argues from research that the involvement of family victims in sentencing leads to a distinct humanization of the sentencing process for family victims.
Yangco, Celia Copadocia. Victims Support Schemes: The Philippine Perspective
The Philippines takes pride in its unique and indigenous way of settling disputes and treating both offenders and victims at the village ("barangay") level. The system is called "Katarungang Pambarangay" (Village Justice System). When a complaint is reported or an unresolved conflict or dispute from the barangay level is elevated to the jurisdiction of the police, the victim is viewed as a complainant. If a criminal charge progresses up to the courts, the victim continues to act in the role of prosecution witness in the case against the offender. Under the Rules of Court, the victim may seek restitution for damages from the crime by filing a civil suit against the offender. A victim/witness who believes himself/herself to be in danger from an offender can apply for admission into the Witness Protection, Security, and Benefit Program of the Department of Justice. A Board of Claims was created in 1992 under the Department of Justice to grant compensation for victims of unjust imprisonment or detention and victims of violent crimes. The law specifies the administrative procedure for filing the victim's claim through the Board of Claims. This commission provides financial assistance to victims of human rights violations or their families, so as to help alleviate suffering and sustain their basic needs within a specified period. Further, the Philippine Government has enacted laws that protect the rights and address the needs of certain categories of victims, notably children, women, and migrant Filipinos. This chapter also discusses Philippine civil society's role in victims' support, as well as the challenges and prospects of victim support schemes. The chapter concludes that prospects for victim support in the Philippines are promising because of pending legislation designed to further protect human rights in the areas of child abuse and specific harms suffered by crime victims. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Christie, Nils. Victim movements at a crossroad.
Victim movements are growing in most western countries. This is a natural consequence of modernity. Neighbourhoods are weakened, state control moves in and victims might feel they are left behind, forgotten in the legal process. Now they demand a new entrance. This is easy to understand, but difficult to absorb in a penal process. Victim power might be a strong driving force towards the punitive society. And may be it is bad also for victims. Civil meetings between victims and the persons or systems that might have hurt them might be more constructive alternatives, both for victims and their communities. In such meetings there are no limits to what can be expressed. Here delivery of pain is not at the centre, but the question of what happened, how could you do this to me or mine, or to values dear to us? Victim movements stand at a crossroad. They might strengthen civil societies and their members, or create further damage. (author's abstract)
Doak, Jonathan. Victims' Rights in Criminal Trials: Prospects for Participation
This paper examines the victim's standing in a criminal trial in Great Britain against the backdrop of recent policy changes; arguments for a more radical course of reform are examined. Under common law, crime victims are widely perceived as "private parties" whose role in the processing of their cases should be confined to that of witnesses. However, in the United Kingdom, successive governments have introduced measures to bolster the so-called "social" or "service" rights of the victim, such as improved access to information, upgraded court facilities, and entitlements to compensation. One of the major obstacles to victim participation in the criminal process, however, persists under a highly structured adversarial criminal justice system that does not allow for significant participation by a third party. In inquisitorial systems, on the other hand, which characterize most European criminal justice systems, some provision can be made for the participation of the victim within the trial process. In Germany victims of certain serious offenses or the relatives of a murder victim may act as subsidiary prosecutors. Participation of the victim as an independent civil party is another model, which is relatively common in France and Belgium. It allows the victim to initiate a prosecution, to participate and be heard as a party in any prosecution, and to pursue a claim for civil damages in the criminal action. Restorative justice is another concept that is increasingly being used in all types of criminal justice systems, as victims and offenders cooperate in devising the resolution of the harms caused by the offense while holding the offender accountable for the harms. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Krapac, D. Position of the Victim in Criminal Justice: A Restrained Central and Eastern European Perspective on the Victim-Offender Mediation
After reviewing the history of orientation toward victims in western European countries' criminal justice systems, this paper discusses the legal position of the victim in criminal justice in the former socialist states of eastern Europe as well as victim- offender mediation in the former socialist states within extrajudicial mechanisms. The penal legislation of the former socialist states gave the crime victim a minor role in the criminal justice system. Despite proclaimed attempts to mobilize citizens in the pursuit of governmental goals, official control of the criminal justice process was tight. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Fattah, Ezzat A. Victimology Today Recent Theoretical and Applied Developments
Victimology has made enormous strides in the past 20 years. As the result of ongoing studies and research, there is more knowledge about the phenomenon of victimization and of those who are occasionally, frequently, or repeatedly victimized. There is adequate knowledge of the distribution of victimization in time and space, of the dynamics of victimization, and of the process of victim/target selection. Several theoretical models have been developed to explain the variations in victimization risks. Even more progress has been achieved at the applied level. The victims movement has been successful in sensitizing politicians, policymakers, the criminal justice system, and the general public to the plight of crime victims. This has resulted in a flurry of legislation aimed at improving the lot of crime victims and at recognizing and implementing some basic rights for crime victims. Many steps have been taken to increase victim participation in criminal justice proceedings, to improve the treatment of victims by criminal justice personnel, and to allow the victims some input in criminal justice decisions. In many countries, State programs to compensate crime victims have been established. Restitution by the offender is being ordered in an increasing number of cases. Programs for victim-offender mediation, both in serious as well as in minor offenses, have been established in many countries; repairing the harm done to the victim is one of the primary conditions of successful resolution of the conflict. Special assistance to certain categories of victims -- such as victims of rape, child victims of sexual assault, and victims of family violence -- is now available in many jurisdictions. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
. Employing the "last best offer" approach in criminal settlement conferences: The therapeutic application of an arbitration technique in judicial mediation.
This Article's suggestion grows from the idea of an indicated sentence. However, to stimulate in each conference participant more thoughtful consideration of the other participants' positions, this Article proposes that in appropriate cases an additional element-borrowed from arbitration-known as the "Last Best Offer" ("LBO") be used. Having the parties' full agreement secured at the beginning of the conference,' the process would operate as follows: before announcing the indicated sentence, the conference judge would solicit a proposed sentence from the state, from the defense, and from the victim. The judge would then have the opportunity to examine the various proposals, hear from each interested party and the respective counsel, and ask pointed questions intended to provide the parties and counsel with a better understanding of the others' legal positions, the evidence, and each side's needs. This discussion would provide an excellent opportunity for the judge to use-and to encourage others to use-active listening, empathy, and perhaps confrontation. 14 The discussion should include, at a minimum, a frank evaluation of all conditions and consequences of a settlement and guilty plea versus the consequences and likelihood of a guilty verdict after a trial. Often, these conditions and consequences are the most important considerations to the parties and their families.(excerpt)
. Defense-Initiated Victim Outreach (DIVO): A guide for creating defense-based victim outreach services. Manual for Defense.
In a very real sense, DIVO is as much a philosophy as a “program.” Through the historic work of countless crime victim survivors and their advocates we now have police-based crime victim liaisons, prosecutor-based victim assistance coordinators, and corrections-based service providers. It’s time now that the defense community, whose members serve a core function within the criminal justice system, recognize and act upon their obligation to the victim survivors whose experiences of harm initiate and drive the process. The responsibility for treating victim survivors with dignity and respect falls to every member of the criminal justice system. This manual will assist you in developing principled Defense-Initiated Victim Outreach in your state or region. In it you will find material that will assist you in promoting DIVO among defense attorneys and other key stakeholders including judges, prosecutors and victim service providers. Agendas and material for training defense attorneys are included. Finally, this manual will present programmatic ideas for maintaining and coordinating a DIVO program, overcoming obstacles, maintaining accountability, and assuring continuity of service. (excerpt)
New Zealand Ministry of Justice. A focus on victims of crime: A review of victims' rights. Public consultation document.
The purpose of this consultation document is to seek your submission on the Ministry of Justice‟s preliminary proposals (outlined on pages 49-51) that aim to improve government agencies‟ responses to victims of crime and to enhance victims‟ rights and role in criminal justice processes. To be responsive to the needs of all victims of crime, including Māori, the proposals in this document are consistent with the concept and values embodied in Poutama Manaaki.1 Poutama Manaaki describes a process of making a positive transition from one point to another, and depicts a recovery and regaining strength through understanding and information. Our aim is for all victims of crime to be supported throughout their involvement in the criminal justice process. (excerpt)
Roach, Kent. "The Role of Crime Victims Under the Youth Crimminal Justice Act"
The author analyzes the role of victim involment in extrajudicial and judicial measures under the Youth Crimminal Justice Act and the overall direction of victim involvement and its possible impact on the development of youth justice. Unlike the Young Offenders Act, victim concerns are specifically recognized throughout the Youth Crimminal Justice Act. With respect to judicial measures, reparation should be interpreted broadly to include yound offenders' genuine attempts to make good the harms they have caused. The concept of reparation should provide an equal opportunity to pay the costs of crime. With respect to extrajudicial measures, the role of victims is difficult to assess. The author encourages greater utilization of family confrences, as this extrajudicial measure has enjoyed success in New Zealand in reducing youtb imprisonment and producing significant levels of victim satisfaction. Victims may well play an increased role under the Youth Crimminal Justice Act, but the actual effect of both punitive and non-punitive forms of victim involvement will depend on how the new act is administered.
Copic, Sanja and Nikolic-Ristanovic, Vesna. The position of victims in Serbia: criminal procedure and possibilities of restorative justice.
In the paper, the authors deal with the victim’s position in the criminal procedure, on the one hand side, and the possibilities of implementing restorative justice and its importance for the improvement of victim’s position in Serbia, on the other one. In the first part of the paper, the authors point out victim’s position within the criminal procedure and the noticed gaps, which are particularly reflected in insufficient paying attention to the victim and neglecting of his/her rights and needs. This is opposite to the strengthening of the rights of the accused party that characterizes societies, which are, as our society, on the way of democratization and improvement of human rights. In the second part of the paper, the authors analyze some solutions that introduce elements of restorative justice into our system of criminal response to crime, but from the victim’s point of view. Finally, the authors also point out some further steps that should be undertaken in order to improve the victim’s position, particularly emphasizing the place and role of victim support service, witness service and special facilities in the courts for victims/witnesses, possibilities of using victim-offender mediation before reporting the crime, or staring the prosecution, or as a part of the treatment in the prison etc.
. Victims, trauma, testimony
The purpose of this paper is to explore the interconnections between the rising policy concern with the victim (of crime) on the one hand and the social recognition of trauma on the other. In so doing the paper will address three interconnected themes. In the first instance it will map some aspects of the changing contours of victimhood over the last fifty years. This section of the paper will be particularly concerned to address the changing nature of claims to victim status: who can and who cannot legitimately claim the label victim. The second part of the paper will overlay this map with an appreciation of the changing nature of the concept of trauma: who can and who cannot legitimately claim to be traumatised. In the light of these considerations the third section of the paper will ask some questions about the legitimacy of the policy concern to listen to victims' voices: the problem of testimony. Here the paper will be concerned to ask some questions concerning the efficacy of such policy developments if the claim to victim status rests on a presumption of trauma. All of these considerations will be presented in the spirit of exploring what might be called a critical victimological imagination. (author's abstract)

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