Victim Impact Statements, Sentencing and Contemporary Standards of Fairness in the Courtroom
Wilson and Ross (eds), Crime, Victims and Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015
29 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2015
Date Written: March 8, 2015
The inclusion of victims and their victim impact statements (VISs) in sentencing modifies the adversarial sentencing hearing in order to reflect shifts in community sensibilities and expectations of fairness in legal proceedings. Drawing on findings from a recent qualitative study of victim participation in sentencing hearings in the New South Wales Supreme Court, this chapter explores the challenges generated by victim participation and the emotional nature of victim impact evidence for the sentencing judge. It considers how judges can respond to the victims’ interests in a manner designed to enhance the fairness of proceedings for victims while not jeopardising the offender’s entitlement to a fair hearing. Ultimately, fairness to victims in this context is more than an entitlement to submit a VIS. Fairness involves meeting a range of procedural conditions in relation to victims including: treating victims with dignity and giving them appropriate space and time to present their statements; keep victims informed where appropriate; and afford victims due recognition as a participant.
Keywords: victim impact statements, procedural fairness, judging, sentencing
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