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Justice for All: Putting Victims at the Heart of Criminal Justice?

NCJ Number
Journal of Law and Society Volume: 30 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2003 Pages: 309-326
John D. Jackson
Date Published
June 2003
18 pages
This article examines and critiques the Labour government’s assertion in its White Paper, Justice for All, that the criminal justice system will be rebalanced in the favor of crime victims and witnesses.
The thesis that the criminal justice system should cater to the needs of crime victims has been emphasized as part of the Labour government’s remodeling of the criminal justice system. The government asserted in its 2002 White Paper that by centralizing the views and concerns of crime victims and witnesses, the criminal justice system will be better able to reduce crime and bring offenders to justice. The author claims there exists a tension between instrumental crime control concerns and victim-oriented community concerns. This tension is made clear in the different explanations offered for a victim-oriented criminal justice system. The instrumental crime control argument suggests that the justice system relies on witnesses and victims to report crime; without the help of victims and witnesses, the criminal justice system cannot properly reduce crime and punish offenders. The victim-oriented argument suggests that a victim-oriented justice system revives the spirit of community and empowers individuals, both of which are necessary to the effective reduction of crime. The author argues that the government’s strategy will result in injustices to defendants with little or no tangible benefits for victims and communities. Indeed, it is argued that the victim-centered justice system being touted by the government is actually a convenient mask for the government’s actual goal of stripping defendant’s of their rights in favor of the prosecution.