Presentation on theme: "Can the Criminal Justice System be ‘victim-centred’ Dr Nicole Westmarland 1 st North East Conference on Sexual Violence."— Presentation transcript:
Can the Criminal Justice System be ‘victim-centred’ Dr Nicole Westmarland 1 st North East Conference on Sexual Violence
Today’s presentation Outline of my argument Parallel Justice Why this is a good idea
Outline of my argument 1.Government rhetoric about putting the victim at the heart of the criminal justice system is a myth 2.Within our criminal justice system the victim is a witness – our system is not designed to deal with victims of crime 3.The system as it stands is failing victims and needs to get its house in order regarding conviction rates (minimum = consistency) 4.That we should move away from the idea that the criminal justice system in itself can ‘do justice’ to victims 5.The parallel justice system in the USA is a good model of where we need to go with our system 6.Rape Crisis and other support services are already doing a different form of justice, and this form of justice needs recognising.
What is Parallel Justice? “The concept of Parallel Justice elevates the goal of helping victims rebuild their lives to a fundamental component of justice. Parallel Justice requires us to decouple the pursuit of justice for victims from the administration of justice for offenders. Under a system of Parallel Justice the societal message to victims would be, “What happened to you is wrong and we will help you rebuild your life.” (National Center for Victims of Crime website)
Poster text: Bars and Bandaids aren't enough. We spend billions of dollars every year on a system that deals with criminals. It's time to invest in helping victims of crime rebuild their lives.
Some guiding principles Victims want to feel safe, recover from the trauma they’ve suffered, and regain control of their lives. We have merely tinkered with a system that was created for very different purposes and hoped it would meet the needs of victims. We need to separate the pursuit of justice for victims from the administration of justice for offenders. Imagine a society that felt that justice required that every effort be made to help all victims of crime. The first principle of parallel justice is that we marshal government resources to help victims feel safe and get back on track. It is in our interest as a nation to help victims of crime. The justice we seek will also produce a safer society. (Quotes from Heenan, National Center for Victims of Crime).
Why this is a good idea #1 The current system is not working ‘the attrition problem’
‘If you were raped by someone you knew, would you report it to your local police?’ – Survey of Rape Crisis workers
Why this is a good idea #2 Its what survivors want ‘victim satisfaction’ Why this is a good idea #3 It would reduce the impact of rape ‘harm minimisation’ Why this is a good idea #4 It would save money ‘positive cost benefit ratio’
Feedback from women who have used Rape Crisis Life changing and life saving Felt understood and not judged or blamed Better able to cope with life Came off medication/stopped using drugs and or alcohol Improved relationships with children/partners etc Increased self confidence and self esteem I now know that what happened to me was not my fault Decreased or completely stopped self harming behaviours Overcame phobias Started college/volunteering/training course/returned to work
Conclusion Rape survivors stuck in systems that are inappropriate to their needs (e.g. mental health, immigration, probation, prisons) should be diverted to more appropriate services that can deal with their experiences of abuse. Justice for survivors of rape can only be obtained through an increased confidence in the criminal justice system and properly funded Rape Crisis Centres to provide them with holistic support to enable them to move on with their lives.