Sunday, 9 June 2013

Victims' Justice

Victims of crimes have rights.  Nothing that appears below is intended to give the impression that I think anything to the contrary.

But we have to recall that Regina does the prosecuting in the UK - not the victim (even a private prosecution is liable to being taken over or terminated by the Crown).  This is because in a civilised society the State does the punishing and not individuals - not vigilantes and not victims. The decision to prosecute must be based on an objective dispassionate assessment and the 'public interest' must be the central guiding light.

Thus formalising a right for victims to seek a review of the decision to prosecute - is to be welcomed (if only to cut the number of JRs) but not at the expense of watering down the central role of the public interest and the fact that the Crown does the prosecuting and not the victim.

A good example of the hierarchy of interests is this judgment from Mitting J where the interests of the victim came third to the interests of the Defendant (presumed innocent until convicted) which came second to the public interest in the due administration of justice.  Magistrates refused an adjournment of a domestic violence case because witnesses did not turn up at the right time due to CPS incompetence.  A prosecution JR failed.  Mitting J noted the outrage of the victim, but further noted that this was not a trump card

2. On any view, the facts of this case do not show the functioning of the criminal justice system in a good light. For reasons which they have explained in correspondence, the alleged victim of the offence and her parents have understandably been outraged by the course events have taken.

This is how the transcript of the judgment ends, the victim's father is addressing the Court directly:

But putting all of that aside, we just have not seen justice and our faith in the justice of this country, it's just evaporated, and so my daughter who was beaten -- I saw her with black eyes, bite marks in her arm, bruises over her body -- this is my daughter. If this has happened to your daughter, how do you think you would feel when these arguments of -- it's just semantics, you know.
41. I know -- I saw my daughter. She's -- you're crucifying her. You are just crucifying her and now we are almost 18 months or 16 months, whatever, beyond the date and she's not got no closure whatsoever knowing that a man has beaten her -- okay, and I know he hasn't been found been guilty -- he hasn't been brought to trial.
42. But she's been beaten. She's scarred. She can't put this behind her and I don't know where to go from here. Do we just lie down and just -- I know today is specifically about -- you know, the hearing here is not about the interested party abusing my daughter, but what I am experiencing isn't justice. I just -- I'm appalled.
43. MR JUSTICE MITTING: I know it will be no comfort to you or your daughter, but I began my judgment by expressing the view that your outrage was both understandable and justified. I am afraid I can do no more about it. I have to deal with the judicial review challenge that has been brought by the prosecution and I have rejected it for the reasons that I have given. I am afraid I cannot put right what has gone wrong.
44. UNKNOWN SPEAKER: So justice hasn't been served.

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