Giving justice to victims

Yesterday I opined about the need to put justice back into justice. I gave examples of situations where I thought the justice system in New Zealand had some work to do on rarely considered instances that are quite consequential for those unlucky enough to get caught up in them. But as consequential as they are, and certainly not detracting from the importance of New Zealand criminal law being better set up to deal with such cases, I think the devastation caused to victims of crime where law enforcement and the jury have done their jobs but the judges does not, are much worse.

And unfortunately even though I pay not a large amount of attention to major court cases, I find it all to easy to dredge up examples of where the sentencing judge or the Parole Board has made a call that is as true as it is ridiculous. And I wonder how much fear must be coursing through the veins of the victims; how much the police who arrested the offender, gathered the evidence must be chafing at the bit; how much the jury – if it was a clear cut case – must be wondering about the competency of the judge. And if it was the Parole Board – whose credibility has suffered much damage in the last few years – it will be a sense of outrage; a sense of betrayal that the taxpayer funded system they help fund failed them.

Or maybe the problem is with none of them, but the laws that govern them. Maybe it is time to review the laws that govern how all of these organs of the justice system perform their functions. But is there any political party willing to undertake such a review? Possibly. Some will decry it as an obscene money wasting exercise and others will say what is the point since no one will do anything, but do they who decry it have a plan themselves other than the status quo?

For family and the victims of violent crime – anything sexual, murder, assault, kidnapping, home invasion, anything involving drugs and/or weapons and so forth – they will be fearful for their safety. They will want to know that they can go and do all the things people normally do in public and around their places of residence without fear. Therefore if someone is caught and tried for the crime/s they are accused of and found guilty, the nature of the sentencing must reflect the nature of the crime. If for example it is a murder, clearly jail time with no bail should be inevitable. So too should be a permanent Do Not Contact/Approach/Visit order and compulsory notification of ANY relocation of the convicted offender. The eligibility for parole should be restricted to those classed as minimal risk.

For victims of other crime such as fraud, cyber crime, burglaries and such, it will be the the feeling of violation that governs their reactions. The people who lose money in a fraud will be angry that a person or company was trusted with their money and blew that trust. They therefore are highly unlikely to want anyone convicted for these crimes to be able to practice in any field of employment involving financial transactions – be it a banker, accountant or otherwise. Although I wonder how much difference it would make, since recent examples have shown that often little if any money is recovered, a court enforced written guarantee and a Financial Monetary Authority sanctioned complaints scheme might be a partial answer.

At the end of the day though, a cold, hard to stomach truth remains: the only real way to reduce the impact on victims is to give as little incentive as possible for the criminal to commit the crime in the first place, something we will all agree is much easier said than done. My proposals will cost, but I think doing nothing will cost more.

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