JSB173 Week 10 Revision
Victims in the Criminal Justice System
Up until recently the Australian criminal justice system has been predominately
offender-centred, leaving little attention paid to the victims. This has begun to
change slightly in recent times, with the system now attempting to incorporate
victims and take into account their interests and feelings.
Several groups which have pushed for this change have included the Women’s
Liberation Movement, non-government victim’s support groups, academics and even
the government itself.
We live in a society that highly fears crime. By focusing on the needs of victims, the
government has a way of looking as though it is doing something productive in
response to this fear. The public all sympathises with the victim and today the victim
is viewed as a representative of us all.
While the victim’s experience is assumed as collective of us all, and the stories of
victims are splashed across media etc. for us all to see. More and more, attention is
being paid to the victims of crime and their voices are becoming more influential to
all levels of the justice system.
Police and Victims
Police are the first point of contact for most victims. Research has shown that victims
need police to be sensitive to their circumstances, to keep them updated on the
situation and to provide helpful and practical advice on how to avoid victimisation in
One outcome of this is that police are beginning to play a more ‘social services’ role.
At an organisational level, many police officers oppose this because they see crime
fighting as their primary goal.
However, with the increasing recognition of victim’s needs, police are being
encouraged to act more sensitively and socially towards victims and are encouraged
to do so in the following ways:
o Providing police with guidelines on how to deal with victims
o Setting up specialist units to deal with certain victims
o Providing officers with specialised training to help them meet victim needs
There are however concerns regarding the divergent nature of the police roles and
the way they are now expected to be crime fighters as well as social workers.
Victims and Court
Victims come into contact with the courts as either witnesses or injured parties.
Research has shown the victims are generally dissatisfied with the overall court
process. They want to have their say, to tell their story, to be heard and to be met
with sensitivity and understanding. Many also want compensation for the harm that
has been caused to them.
In response to the