Net curtain, Flick, helen, edit

Net curtain, Flick, helen

Sunday, a usually quiet day for politics was woken by Chris Grayling’s announcement for a ‘bold new vision for the treatment of victims’. Is this ‘new wine in old wineskin’? How genuine are these intentions and how prepared are we as a country for a more victim-focused criminal justice system? What are the real reasons behind the announcement and why in the midst of the Scottish referendum?

  • This article is written by Dr. Theo Gavrielides, IARS founder and director, and Grace Loseby, IARS’ projects coordinator

The justice secretary’s new plans to enshrine victims’ rights in law and provide funding to drastically improve the justice experience for victims are very welcome indeed. Changes include: online case information, greater access to restorative justice, the right to have a Victim Personal Statement read out in court and increasing transparency and accountability, to ensure criminal justice agencies are held to account for the services they provide to victims.

Rest assured that this increased accessibility for victims, within the complex nature of the criminal justice system is not announced by mistake, unlike the unusual timing of the announcement. Rather this heightened state of catering to and of nurturing of, victims needs comes at a much needed time. For the recent scandals of victims’ rights in Rotherham, the open disregard for Impact Statements and the deliberation of European law.

Following fierce campaigning by victims’ groups, the international community has entered into a debate that aims to move the victim from the margins to the centre of the criminal justice system. For instance, the European Union has recently entered into a process of legislative and policy reforms with the aim of strengthening the rights of victims in criminal proceedings. By November 2015, all EU member states will need to have demonstrated that they have modified their domestic laws to give effect to the Directive 2012/29/EU ‘Establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime’ (Victims’ Directive).

Although Grayling’s announcements are somewhat different to the UK Victim’s Code as they state specific rights, it is undoubtedly similar to the Victim’s Directive.  But do they go far enough – and are we prepared as a nation to implement them?

We are encouraged that the Ministry wants to include victims in its consultation and review and increase the transparency and accountability of victim services. However, rather than including victims as an after-thought, it would have been significant to engage them at the formulation stage of this new victim initiative, especially those who have been affected by the mismanagement of the criminal justice system in child and racial abuse cases.

It also requires an overall approach and engaging justice stakeholders to the significance part that victims play in the justice system. For example, although Victim Impact Statements can have no bearing on the final judgment made, they can give victims and their families the opportunity for closure and a cathartic articulation of the impact a crime has had. It is these bottom-up approaches that will awaken wider civil society and the communities affected by the previously poor approach to victims’ rights, not just use those who happened to be paying attention to the news on the weekend. This is the bottom up democracy that we encourage here at IARS through our founding values.

According to the European Commission, the general objective of the Victims’ Directive is ‘to improve the real, day-to-day situation of millions of victims of crime across Europe to the greatest extent possible’. Article 27 of the Directive expects all EU Member States to bring into force the laws, policies, practices, regulations and administrative provisions that are necessary to comply with the Directive.

These measures will need to take into account existing good practices in the field of assistance and protection for victims. Obligations imposed on the Member States stemming from the Directive will demand transposition by a legislative instrument, while practical and technical implementation to achieve these objectives might be ensured by appropriate non-legislative measures. Have we given victims and their families the voice to shape the policy and legislative changes expected by the Directive? Will civil servants do the usual googling again and come up with yet another far removed, top down, centralised requirement that no victim or practitioner will be able to implement?
At least here at IARS we are trying! We have just released a free e-course for victims and their families giving them direct access to training on their rights within the Directive. This is where we feel victims can truly bring about a change and commitment to rights by becoming their own enforcers and empowering them throughout the justice process. This is part of a wider project that we are running with other European partners titled Restorative Justice in Europe: Safeguarding Victims and Empowering professionals.

The Directive framework will not exist in a vacuum, but must be constructed taking into account the general principles of EU law (e.g. equality and non-discrimination) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Moreover, it is necessary to recall the positive obligations and existing case-law standards of the European Court of Human Rights, which contains various references to victims’ rights (e.g. access to justice, due process). Finally, a number of relevant international standards on victims’ protection that have been developed by the United Nations and by the Council of Europe must also be considered.

Mr Grayling has no other option but to prepare criminal justice services to comply with the letter and spirit of the new EU law. Sunday’s announcement cannot be buried under the Scottish referendum. The media cannot control the agenda and victims must genuinely be given a voice.

In its first article, the Directive makes its objective clear to all. The Directive aims to ensure that victims of crime receive appropriate information, support and protection and are able to participate in criminal proceedings equally, safely and fairly. Furthermore, in all contacts with victim support or restorative justice services, victims must be treated in a tailored, respectful, sensitive and non-discriminatory manner. The Directive makes it explicit that contrary to what has been the practice across the EU, the victim must now have a key role in criminal proceedings. Arguably, moving the victim from the margins to the centre of the criminal justice system is one of the most ground-breaking elements of this EU law and requires a change in culture and approach to victim’s rights. Rather than responding to damning violations it demands a long and sustainable approach to engaging victims and their communities, thus putting new wine into fresh wine skins.

Profile photo of Theo Gavrielides About Theo Gavrielides
Dr. Theo Gavrielides is the Founder and Director of Independent Academic Research Studies

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9 Comments

  • George Gretton September 25, 2014 12:40 pm

    Hello Theo,

    This article caught my eye in my inbox, and notwithstanding that I have a whole load of Justice Gap items in my dedicated “Pending Action – Justice Gap” directory in my dire “Outlook” installation, I will bung something now in this one.

    I also work in child protection and in the recovery of children and adults from abuse in childhood – which can linger and be aggravated thereafter – and I carefully avoid the use of the word “Victim”, that cheap tabloid pseudo-journos thrash around to create worse-than-useless hype and hysteria – there many have been a thread here about that…..

    In that area of abuse nobody is a final victim until they pass away with their harm and damage unremedied… they are instead people who have been the targets of abusers, and, as in my case, the most shocking abuse can be survived… even when the Original abuser is one’s mother, that really sets you up as a target for other abusers – they can spot you in a flash as being already vulnerable.

    So can we start talking about the targets of criminal activities, and, to be specific, of criminally abusive individuals, who are often in the Psychopath / Sociopath spectrum, as beautifully defined in the “Hare Psychopathy Checklist”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy_Checklist

    If we brand people clumsily as “Victims”, then that is additionally stigmatising, on top of being attacked by a criminal; if we listen to them, and think of them as targets of criminal abuse that can be recovered from, then we do them a better favour….

    rather I talk of “Paedomisetes” (child haters) than of “Paedophiles” (child lovers); these pieces of excrement HATE children, in my view because they are so naturally beautiful..

    Yours, George “Nemesis” Gretton

    • Theo Gavrielides October 3, 2014 9:37 am

      Dear George,

      I could not agree with you more. In fact, I have challenged labels used within and outside (e.g. schools) the criminal justice system for years. See for instance a book that I am writing using psychology to understand key terms such as parties in conflict as opposed to victims and offenders http://www.rj4all.info/content/RJPsychology

      However, I must stress that we have to work with what is and not what should have been. By that I mean that the current criminal justice system uses these labels including victims. Victims’ legislation and the Directive that I mentioned in my article are using these labels. The intentions are good. I must therefore try and play respecting these rules while continuing my journey for learning.

      • George Gretton October 4, 2014 10:31 am

        Hello again Dear Dr Theo the Greek…..

        I’m fascinated to see where you come from, and to see that your roots are in the Law, rather than directly in Psychology.

        I’m among other things a semantic pedant, from many sources but mostly from the enduring study of Philosophy, and I watch out for the downsides of careless well meaning words, such as “Victim”, which I am concerned has an additionally stigmatising effect.

        I emphasise recovery more than victimhood, both in my Anti-Fraud work and in my child-and-adult protection and recovery work from childhood abuse… and I equally relentlessly attack the calumnious fabrications and fictions of Eve and Pandora, the latter of which may be more familiar to you culturally…. in my view this expression of male envy was one of the first stories ever told, and then written down..

        If you would like a chuckle at another of my patches, web-search “George Gretton IBD”, and download and read the “J’Accuse” document that will be offered to you, which includes my email address.

        That document has been in wide circulation for three months now, but without, sadly, any Pre-Action Protocols for Defamation delivered to me, to go and discuss in front of a Judge.

        The central target, Harry Iles, Welsh Operations Director of The Charity Commission has, however, stooped, as have other targets, to making a compliant about my “Unprofessional behaviour” to my ICAEW, and / but that is MASSIVLY back-firing…. I have had a lever placed in my hand, Archimedes…..

        Yours, George The Nemesis….

  • Eccy de Jonge September 26, 2014 7:19 am

    Comment removed…

  • Theo Gavrielides October 3, 2014 9:42 am

    Dear Eccy,

    I appreciate your feedback but allow me to respectfully disagree. Restorative justice is by definition a process of empowerment. If you read about its fundamental principles of equality, involvement in decision making and voluntariness then you will understand that it is a dialogue based approach that collapses the labels victims and offenders. The interest lies in the restoration of the harm that was caused.

    I do agree with you that the labels victims and offenders are recent constructs. We tend to forget that the criminal justice system is a modern construct. In other periods and cultures, the response to, what we call today, ‘delinquency’ did not fall within the legal positivistic understanding of ‘crime’ adopted by our modern Western societies. In fact, what we understand today as ‘crime’ was seen by the early communities as a conflict between individuals. Consequently, the terms “offender” and “victims” were coined as a result of this legal positivistic framework.

    Even more importantly, we also seem to forget that in the pursuit of justice, those who had been hurt, and we now call victims, used to have a central role in the decision making process. In fact, there is a general agreement in the literature that in Europe, victims’ roles in criminal proceedings started to deteriorate only during the Middle Ages , and that the major change occurred in the 9th century (Fry, 1951). In Europe, this process was complete by the end of the 12th century (Rossner, 1989), when the ‘State’ had taken control of conflicts (Christie, 1977). Michalowski (1985) claimed that formal law emerged as a means of controlling property and relations, and that the concept of individual property and the history of law were from then and on inseparable.

    In consequence, as the rights of the ‘State’ gradually overshadowed those of the victim and the individual, the criminal justice system was no longer victim-focused. What also emerged from this development was the division of law between ‘public’ and ‘private’. According to this new paradigm, ‘crime’ was mostly dealt with as an act against the State and the public interest, while offences against individuals’ rights were pursued separately as ‘torts’. The terms “offender” and “victims” started to be used and the criminal justice system became state-focused and state-led. A paradox was thus created whereby the criminal justice system was structured around the state without the victims but in the name of victims.

    I encourage you to take our free online course for victims who want to enforce their rights in the criminal process. Here it is
    http://www.rj4all.info/content/victimscourse

    Let me know what you think of it.

  • Eccy de Jonge October 3, 2014 9:50 pm

    Comment removed…

    • George Gretton October 5, 2014 1:14 pm

      Hello Eccy de Jonge,

      I am so very sad to hear your narrative.

      I have some understanding of pain and suffering, that in my case arises from the exceptionally sad fact that my own mother was a psychopath, who set me up for 50 years of Hell, until I found healing, through very kind and caring other women in Health Care.

      I only want to offer here my view that I have not experienced Theo and his work and writing in the same way as you.

      I see Theo’s reference to his work as facilitating, rather than motivated by some sort of sordid commercial gain.

      If we do work such as this, we have to find ways of deriving income from it. I do a whole lot of De Bono work, and at this point in time, in straight ready cash terms, I owe about £17,000, although at least £16,000 is not interest bearing.

      Yours,

      George Gretton

  • Jake Maverick November 1, 2014 4:04 am

    I’ve just been googling Eccy trying to find contact details for her….we have soemthing in common, persecuted political dissident…..and also more in common it seems with every comment of hers and mine censored….as i no doubt this one will be? any chance somebody can put us in contact?

  • British Justice December 30, 2015 2:17 am

    In order to have victims rights it is necessary to know who is the victim and who is the offender. Otherwise it the victim is further victimized by the system, and the offender is pandered to. The British police are unable to determine which party is the victim and which is the offender. Thus they make the situation much worse for the victim whilst emboldening and encouraging the offender to bully and assault again.

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