Source: (2004) Visiting Experts’ Papers, 123rd International Senior Seminar, Resource Material Series No. 63, pp. 87-92. Tokyo: United Nations Asia and Far East Institute For the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. Downloaded 10 February 2005.
Early in history, criminal law was essentially law for victims. Victims of crime were the center of the administration of criminal justice. Most criminal sanctions aimed at providing redress to the victims, typically in the forms of compensation and restitution. The concept of crime as a “private wrong” has been replaced by the emergence of the notion that crime is an act against the well being of the state and thus needs “public prosecution”. The importance of the role of the victim of crime was limited to that of a “witness”. Over the past few centuries, the defendant and the State evolved as the two parties with legal standing in criminal proceedings. The victims were virtually forgotten and became, in the words of Bard, â€œthe party without institutionalized voice in the legal process.”
The changing paradigm during that period was based on the following premises:
1. A crime is primarily an offense against the government rather than a private wrong.
2. The government, because it acts for the good of the citizenry, cannot be held accountable for its
mistakes or negligence in the administration of criminal justice.
3. Specially trained professional officers are better at controlling crime and seeing that justice is
accomplished than the private citizens or victims of the offenses.
4. Victims are useful to the system as information sources and witnesses; their interests are not
important to the system and could interfere with the efficient administration of justice.
5. Because of the great power of the state and the potential for abuse, persons accused or suspected of committing a crime need to be protected with an array of procedural rights and privileges.
This â€œnew paradigmâ€¿ which has remained the mainstream thinking of the criminal justice systems around
the world for a long time until the older ideas have been rekindled only recently by the movement for the
protection of crime victims. (excerpt)
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