The principles of restorative justice are geared towards benefitting all parties pertinent to the crime committed. For the offender, the concept of restorative justice is aimed at showing them their crime, the effects of their offense to the victim and the community, their side of the story, and to get them back as accepted members of the community in order to prevent repeated offending. Consequently, restorative justice seeks to reintegrate the offender back into the society in spite of their earlier misdeed. For the victim, restorative justice seeks to obtain details on how they were affected by the crime and how they feel an amicable solution can be arrived at. The principles of restorative justice advocate for restitution or compensation to the victim for their loss. As observed in various regions where restorative justice is practiced, the victim is able to express their loss and the process finds a way of reparation of the victims loss. Moreover, the process looks to repair the relationship between the victim and the offender in order to establish agreeable relations in society. The community is also affected by the offenders crime. The immediate community is affected by the crime because both the offender and the victim belong to it, and consequently any damaged relationship hurts the wellbeing of the community. It is therefore important to the community that its two members are on agreeable terms and the loss that ensued from the crime is compensated. Moreover, the community needs both the offender and the victim to be part of it, therefore, it is necessary for the process carried out to be fair for both parties in order to establish the order that existed prior to the crime. In essence, the community is a significant stakeholder because it is made up of individuals who coexist and therefore when there is conflict between individuals or groups in the community; it is a threat to the wellbeing of the whole community.
Consequently, the victim is an integral part of the restorative justice system. The process of restorative justice requires the victim's participation in order to have a complete process that will ensure due fairness is accorded to all the parties affected by the crime. On the other hand, victimless crimes are a contentious issue among scholars and policymakers in the context of restorative justice. Victimless crimes can be described as offences which have a direct impact on the offender alone but do not threaten the wellbeing of any other members of the community; however, the acts may be illegal by statutory law. Supporters of the trial of victimless crimes by restorative justice argue that these crimes are detrimental to the whole community because they affect individuals who are part of the community.
Role of the Victim in the Restorative Justice Process
Participation in the restorative justice process is voluntary for all participants. Referral orders necessitate the meeting organized by the Youth Offender Panel and run by lay members of the community and at least a member of staff from the youth offending team (YOT). The victim is also encouraged to attend though it is not compulsory; they can also send a representative. The offender is also encouraged to attend and failure to attend must be accompanied with a plausible reason. In addition, the young offender is expected to be accompanied by an adult representative to witness the proceedings. The whole process is voluntary and relies on the willingness to participate. The basis of voluntary participation stems from the fundamental principle of restorative justice that aim to involve all parties involved in the dispute to forge a way forward in the aftermath of the conflict. During the meeting, the victim and the offender are allowed to air their views on the matter at hand. The victim is expected to air their grievances. The victim is expected to explain the hurt or loss they have undergone because of the crime.
It can be argued that it would be impossible to have a fully restorative process if the victim was not involved in the process. In contrast to traditional justice systems, restorative justice looks at the concerns of all the parties involved. In order to mend damaged relationships, it is important to consider all the parties involved in the dispute. Victim involvement is a fundamental aspect of restorative justice. The needs of the victim are highly considered in order to establish the impact of the offence on the victim. However, some researchers like McCold argue that process that cover the needs of at least two parties out of the three involved are restorative processes. McCold argues that the processes can address the need for accountability in offenders and the involvement of the community in repairing damaged relationships. Marshall on the other hand differs with McCold arguing that without involvement of the victim, there would be incomplete restoration in the process and consequently in Marshalls definition, restorative justice must entail participation of the victim.
In the British restorative system process for young offenders, victim liaison officers act as intermediaries to reach out to the victims and enlist their participation in the process. In addition to linking with the victims, the victims liaison officer is tasked with creating victim awareness in the young offender. The process of victim awareness encompasses engaging with the young offender after the panel meeting; as required by the referral order. The engagement involves the young offender being made aware of the impact of their offense to the victim and the victims feelings. However, during the panel meeting, the young offender was also made aware of the offence, the impact, the victims feelings, and there were statements from the victim read with consent from the victim.
In Canada, the victim is encouraged to take an active role in the restorative justice process. Not only will the victim assist to define the obligations and responsibilities of the offender, but also the victim should take an active role in leading the exchange that takes place. The Canadian system is a demonstration of implementation of the fundamental principles of restorative justice. It is important to have the victim actively involved in the process in order to fully understand the impact of the crime. Understanding the impact of the crime will assist in determining the level of reparation that the victim needs. Compensation is a fundamental aspect of restorative justice that sets it apart from traditional justice systems. Restorative justice treats crime as an affront to the wellbeing of the victim, society, and the offender. The victim, society, and the offender are expected to exist in harmony prior to the crime. Therefore, based on the principles of restorative justice, the crime disrupts the balance that existed in society prior to its happening. Consequently, the Canadian justice system takes seriously involvement of the victim in order to get a comprehensive scope of the magnitude of the offence for reparative solutions to be arrived at.
Internationally, restorative justice has been used to reconcile victims, offenders and society in general following acts of genocide or other wars. Victims and offenders are involved in tribunals or truth commissions. An example is the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide; tribunals held meetings where offenders and victims were given a chance to air their views. Such a forum is based on the premises of restorative justice that seeks to restore the balance in society that has been upset by the crime. The offenders are expected to apologize to the victims for their crime. Consequently, it can be argued that victims are an integral part of the restorative justice process and their participation is an important step in the process of restoration since they suffer damage either personal or to property.
Restorative justice has its fundamental principles being the reinstatement of harmonius relationships in the community. In restorative justice, crime is viewed as a disruption of the relationship between the offender, victim and society. Consequently, the principles of restorative justice advocate for non-punitive measures to restore the relationship prior to the crime. The offender is expected to be aware of the damage their crime caused and knowledge of their obligations is considered a deterring measure from future reoffending. On the other hand, the victim is expected to participate in the process and get their grievance heard. As opposed to punishing the offender for their crime, restorative justice process focus on compensating the victim or reducing the effect of the hurt caused by the crime. The victim's needs are considered in all decision making, as opposed to traditional justice systems. However, the restorative justice system does not lean more on the victims side. The restorative justice system is geared towards creating a win-win situation for all parties. For the victim particularly, restorative justice systems seek to satisfy the victim in atonement for the hurt they suffer from the crime. The victim is compensated for the hurt they suffer following the crime.
Victims and Traditional Justice Systems
Prior to the 2013 enactment of the Victims Code in Britain, victims had little or no voice in the traditional criminal system. Authorities carried out independent investigations and prosecuted criminals on the basis of the law without considering the victims' opinion. The victim at times was called upon to testify in court and verify that the crime took place. However, little concern was given to the financial, physical or psychological impact of the crime on the victim. There was no thought or consideration given to the state of the victim the aftermath of the offence. The legal system held no provision for the victim to express their loss, hurt, or thoughts on the matter. Consequently, victims' affairs were relegated to the background since their plight was ignored.
On the other hand, the role of the victim of rime in the traditional justice system has been controversial among many parties based on several aspects. The aspects that cause division on the role of the victim in the justice system include variations in reporting crimes to the authorities, variations in victim involvement programs and flaws in the Crime Victims Rights Act. Moreover, individual victim's needs and wants and the act of crime being an offence against bot the victim and the state blur the definition of roles of the victim in the traditional justice system. Lobbying for increased victim participation led to initiatives such as the Victims Code of 2013, which sought to increase participation of victims in the traditional justice process. However, opposition to such initiatives argues that presence of victims at hearings and their increased involvement sways the rulings in their favour and leads to harsher sentences for crimes.
Despite various initiatives to increase involvement of victims in the traditional criminal justice system, there still exists a gap in the engagement of victims in the justice process. Victims counselling agencies, victim restitutions and victim impact statements have been enacted but many victims still feel cast aside by the traditional justice system. In addition, other victims are of the opinion that the traditional justice system is oppressive to them and unsympathetic. Rodrigues is of the opinion that the gap between victim involvement and the justice process is due to lack of awareness on their rights. Rodrigues is of the opinion that there is need for an agency to communicate to the victims their rights and their roles. Without proper communication of their rights and their roles, victims could get disillusioned with the traditional justice processes and r...
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