Victim Impact Statements in Child Sexual Assault Cases: A Restorative Role or Restrained Rhetoric?
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law
December 15, 2011
University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 211-249, 2011
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 11/101
There is growing recognition of the communicative, therapeutic and other social benefits attached to Victim Impact Statements (VISs). This article examines the use of VISs in sentencing child sexual assault offenders in Australia. Analysis of a modest sample of 17 VISs extracted from the files of the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is utilised in this discussion to explore the potential use and value of VISs as a medium for victims of child sexual assault to articulate the impacts of their victimisation to the court. This article argues that despite the promise of VISs as a communicative and restorative tool for victims and as a vehicle for the pursuit of other important criminal justice goals, a review of the legal and procedural framework for reception of VISs in child sexual assault cases, reveals that the potential utility of VISs is undermined in practice in several ways, including by evidentiary barriers and restrictive judicial interpretations of the law that have limited the use of such statements by sentencing courts.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40
Keywords: victim, child, sexual, assault, harm, participation
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K40
Date posted: December 17, 2011 ; Last revised: January 23, 2012