Source: (2012) Australian & New Zealand journal of Criminology 45(2) 214-230

Victim participation in the sentencing hearing by way of oral victim impact statements (VISs) is a contentious aspect of contemporary criminal justice. A particular concern is that the disjuncture between the legal goals of the sentencing hearing on the one hand and the goals of victims on the other can generate tension and conflict in the courtroom and threaten the integrity of the process. The subject of this article is the management and containment of victim participation in 18 sentencing hearings observed in the NSW Supreme Court. It is argued that various cooling out structures and processes effectively managed and contained the emotional tension in the courtroom as well as assisted victims to adjust to the legal constraints and the compromise inherent in their position in the process.