Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Another Judge Gets It In The Neck

This story is infuriating on several levels. I have commented previously about the Victim Impact Statements that were introduced a few years ago. They were introduced, as I see it, to give a bogus impression that the criminal justice system is all about victims, despite the fact that the court may not adjust its sentence in response to the Statement. It is a cruel and patronising  fraud on the victims and their families. This is what I thought about it nine years ago, and my view has not changed.

The poor judge is being pilloried for stating a truth that is obvious to anyone in the system.

I suppose it is news because the Silly Season is well under way, and all the grown-up journalists are away in sunny places.

(Later)

Helen Rumbelow writes in Wednedsday's (paywalled) Times to make much the ssme points.

7 comments:

  1. I think the situation is slightly better for sentencing courts, in that they are required to assess the harm done, and an impact statement may contain information that helps them to do that.

    The Parole Board, on the other hand, are not concerned with punishment but with the question of whether it is still necessary to detain somebody in order to protect the public; it is less likely that an impact statement will be able to add anything relevant to that decision.

    It's worth looking at the guidance provided by the Parole Board to victims: https://www.justice.gov.uk/offenders/parole-board/victims-and-families

    The FAQ for victims explicitly addresses the point that impact statements may not make a difference; the problem appears to be less that a fraud is being perpetrated, but that the limited role of such statements wasn't made sufficiently clear to the family.

    They can't contain emotional content, criticism, subjective opinion on the Board's possible decisions or information from the time of the offence that is no longer relevant. It can be used to inform the Board's questioning of the applicant and to help set licence conditions, but it also risks putting victims through having to revisit the circumstances of the offence for little benefit. A cynic might suggest that the only person to really gain is the politician who thinks it up to begin with...

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  2. Quite right. Well said - you and the Judge. Load of misleading claptrap.

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  3. Interesting to read today's Gov press release on this. Careful reading suggests that indeed the VS can have little or no influence on the Board.
    Pity the poor soul who had to write it.

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  4. Of course the judge is correct. A justice system where the fate of the criminal is determined not by his actions, and by how far he has managed to rehabilitate himself, but by whether or not the relatives of the victim still feel bitter would be no justice system at all.

    Even in terms of initial sentencing, a victim statement should have little impact. If you murder Norman No-Mates, you commit exactly the same crime as if you murder his neighbour - a dearly beloved father, pillar of the community and so on.

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  5. He has of course committed the one unpardonable sin - he's told an unpalatable truth (remember Andrew Gilligan a few years ago).
    By the way, we don't have impact statements, they are Victim Personal Statements.

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  6. Victim Personal Statements, Victim Surcharge.

    Like so many others, I have realised that the words 'victim' and 'justice' are worlds apart.

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  7. Victim personal statements are a waste of court time. They are used by victims to release their venom and hate against the offender. While victims deserve sympathy, to allow them also to release hatred in the court and try to influence the sentence handed down is unwise. Also victims bring their own emotional feelings and bias of the events in what they say in court. It would be better if the criminal justice system allowed victims free access to professional help of a psychologist to allow them to gain emotional release of their feelings about the offender and the event they were affected by.

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