Leading article: How to serve the rights of the victim

Share
Related Topics

The Chinese have a saying: "He who seeks revenge should dig two graves". It is a caution against placing justice in the hands of the victim. That can be bad not just for the victim but also for wider society. A crime harms not just its immediate victim but also does violence to the social fabric, to the nexus of relationships and trust upon which a society depends. That is why the punishment of crime must always remain as matter for society rather than becoming the prerogative of an individual.

Nonetheless it is a fair criticism – as made by Sara Payne in her report yesterday on the British criminal justice system – that English law has never sufficiently taken into account the needs, concerns and rights of the victims of crime and that the treatment of victims varies widely from area to area. They need more help, she argues, to deal with the impact of cime and to be given clearer information about how long the perpetrators of crime will actually spend in jail.

Those are impoprtant points for a government that plans to launch a National Victims Service next year. Where Mrs Payne, who was appointed Victims' Champion at the beginning of the year, treads into more contentious territory, however, is in suggesting that drug use, criminal damage and verbal abuse should be recategorised as "criminal" behaviour and dealt with in the criminal courts. That may be a fair reflection of the anger that these offenses cause among the victims but, given the overstretched state of criminal justice in this country and the concerns about overcrowded prisons, it would push the balance of justice too far in favour of punishment over reformation.

Though it does not feature prominently in Mrs Payne's report, the concept of restorative justice now offers us a useful way to meet some of victims' concerns. For it gives them the opportunity to participate in the administration of justice – both by having their voice heard, after conviction and before sentence, and by obliging offenders to take responsibility for their crime.

Concern for the victim, however, must not become a cloak for the whim of public clamour. We must guard against attempts to repair a tear in the social fabric creating fresh ones.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard
 

London’s foreign money bubble is bursting – but will we be better off?

Chris Blackhurst
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash