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Victim impact statements: Some concerns about current practice and proposed changes

June 20, 2011

….One troubling feature is the way a VIS can serve to demonise an offender in the public mind, especially in particularly graphic cases that attract high-level media attention. While the statements may evoke compassion for victims, which is positive, they may also stir up hatred, fear, anger and disgust towards the defendant, which is surely negative. Generating disgust towards specific persons or groups in society is extremely perilous.

….A second matter of concern is whether the VIS actually encourages genuine or lasting empathy for victims. As a brief snapshot in time, the VIS can never do justice to the complexity and variability of a victim’s experience. Nor does it allow the subject’s unique identity and particularity to emerge.

….A third concern about the VIS is its non-dialogical nature. According to Simon Power, a chief goal of the VIS is to enable victims “to address the offender so that the offender may better perceive the impact of the offence on the victim”. But if the statement is addressed to the offender, surely the addressee should have the opportunity to respond in some appropriate way to the victim’s comments. Otherwise, the statement is spoken at the offender or about the offender, but not to the offender.

Read the whole article.


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