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Letting victims define justice

Dec 21, 2011

from the article by Steve Sullivan for Restorative Justice Week 2011:

....There is a growing myth that for victims, justice requires tougher penalties. If only it was that simple. There is no evidence that punishment is as important to the majority of victims as some would have us believe. When asked in one study why they reported the crime, sexual assault victims listed punishment of the offender very low on their list of priorities.

If not punishing the bad guy, what does justice look like to victims? The research tells us that the process is often more important to victims than the outcome.

  • Victims who feel they were engaged in the process (i.e. kept informed by police and victim services, met the Crown, had decisions explained to them, were able to give opinion and were listened to), are more likely to say they were satisfied even if the outcome (i.e. the sentence) was not what they might have expected.
  • Some research has suggested that victims were more critical of police for not keeping them notified of the progress of the investigation than for failing to catch the offender. 
  • One factor that affects the satisfaction of victims who submit impact statements is whether the judge acknowledges them and their statement in his/her remarks. It is important for some to know the judge understood their statement.

On the other hand, if victims are not kept informed, do not have decisions like plea bargains explained and are not notified of the outcome of the case, they are more likely to look to the sentence as the measure of their pain and suffering, and sentence alone rarely meets those expectations.

For many victims, justice means fairness, information and a voice.

Read the whole article.

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