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Victims' Rights in Criminal Trials: Prospects for Participation

NCJ Number
Journal of Law and Society Volume: 32 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2005 Pages: 294-316
Jonathan Doak
Date Published
June 2005
23 pages
This paper examines the victim's standing in a criminal trial in Great Britain against the backdrop of recent policy changes; arguments for a more radical course of reform are examined.
Under common law, crime victims are widely perceived as "private parties" whose role in the processing of their cases should be confined to that of witnesses. However, in the United Kingdom, successive governments have introduced measures to bolster the so-called "social" or "service" rights of the victim, such as improved access to information, upgraded court facilities, and entitlements to compensation. One of the major obstacles to victim participation in the criminal process, however, persists under a highly structured adversarial criminal justice system that does not allow for significant participation by a third party. In inquisitorial systems, on the other hand, which characterize most European criminal justice systems, some provision can be made for the participation of the victim within the trial process. In Germany victims of certain serious offenses or the relatives of a murder victim may act as subsidiary prosecutors. Participation of the victim as an independent civil party is another model, which is relatively common in France and Belgium. It allows the victim to initiate a prosecution, to participate and be heard as a party in any prosecution, and to pursue a claim for civil damages in the criminal action. Restorative justice is another concept that is increasingly being used in all types of criminal justice systems, as victims and offenders cooperate in devising the resolution of the harms caused by the offense while holding the offender accountable for the harms. 112 notes