Sunday, February 21, 2010

Victims, again.

The powerful emotions that wrack those who are victims of serious interpersonal crime have the ability to elevate or degrade. Some victims, rarely given media space, are inspirational in their ability not only to forgive on a personal level, but in their ability to use their emotions to impel them to work to reduce the harm that comes from crime.

More commonly heard of are those victims who are bitter and angry, not unusually constantly tormented by the media to cling to the grief as it poisons their spirit. These particular people are elevated in the popular culture.

Each of these reactions to some horrible loss or injury is human and understandable. Each reveals the emotional, psychological and spiritual complexity of what it means to be human. It is not for anyone to deny the pain of the victim.
However... And you just knew there would be a however! As I have pointed out in previous writing, the status of 'victim’ should not automatically be elevated to that of being a spokesperson, expert or political guru. Emotional pain endows no great insight into criminological problems.

The figure of Sarah Payne, mother of murdered Sara and now the government’s 'Victims Champion', is an illustrative nexus of the problem that comes when victims become campaigners. All the more so when the campaign is wedded to a media campaign and populist stupidity.

Her campaigning has led to dangerous political ideas, the most repellent of which is the belief that criminal justice is weighted in favour of criminals. It follows, automatically, in the popular mind, that victims are therefore being neglected.
This is a strange idea. Criminal justice isn't meant to serve either criminals or victims, it is meant to serve both. If victims have been historically been neglected - an unchallenged fact - then the solution doesn't lie in reducing the safeguards to fair trials.

This is become a poisonous idea, a set of beliefs that are constantly eroding the procedural barriers that are, rightly, intended to make it difficult for the State to place its full weight on its citizens. If history tells us anything, it is that government agents, such as the police, will happily indulge themselves in taking every advantage of a weakened safeguard.

Such a system isn't related to 'justice'. It risks being a 'conviction at any cost’ system, a set of checks and balances deliberately weighted so that it is easier for victims to carry the day. A criminal justice system should be concerned with punishing the guilty and exonerating the innocent, no more and no less.


  1. I totally agree with you on this subject. The Criminal Justice system is not there for the victims, their friends, family, or the media. It is there to track down lawbreakers, and bring them to the Justice System, so that justice can be handed out to those who contravene a given law.

    The Justice System in our nation, was never meant to be for the whims and fancies of any one individual, such as Ms Payne. The Law, is the Law, with, or without her opinions. Logic, and reason has it, that we break the Law of the Nation, not an individual, hence Democracy. If we all have our own Laws, that's Chaos, not Democracy.

    It is just the same with the Jury System. As this is the main reason we call this Nation Democratic. To remove the Jury System, would be to remove this Nations Democratic status. Anyone found to be tampering with our Democratic Nation for their own ends, should be dragged to the Crown Court for High Treason. We abide together as one nation! Not your nation, not my nation, but 'Our Nation'.

    We need more logic, and reason, not Political Treason, which we have been getting just recently. I should hope, that 'all' Judges, keep 'Truth' moving in the forward direction. Unlike the politicians, who are liars to start with, and then stacking those lies even higher, so that they can hide behind the stack.

  2. I wonder exactly who hides behind the stack of lies from parliament?

    How can the law of the land be respected when there are some high ranking individuals who get away with horrific acts of mass violence (witness Falluja in 2004 and the millions dead from an illegal war) while others are left to rot for something they did, admitted to, expect to do a tariff for it as so meets the crime, but ends up being punished way over that tariff?

    No-one is talking about an each to their own law, but merely being critical of the many injustices that are in place in the criminal justice system we live under, and for that matter the system that our ancestors also had to bear.

  3. I absolutely agree with Ben. The law and punishment should be about bringing offenders to justice and making them serve a punishment - not a personal crusade - people emotionally involved in the situations we talk about are NOT the right people to make appropriate decisions on behalf of everyone else.