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Victims’ needs and participation in justice: is there a role for vengeance?

Van Stokkom, Bas
June 4, 2015

Source: (2013) Restorative Justice. 1(2):168-189.

This article begins with a critical examination of populist phrases such as ‘victims have a natural right to revenge’; it also discusses the ‘zero sum rhetoric’ in populist discourse (‘his suffering is my healing’). Are there any plausible arguments supporting this claim? The article goes on to deal with the question whether victims of serious crimes might benefit from expressing revenge feelings in two types of justice proceedings: victim impact statement schemes (VIS) and restorative justice conferences (RJC). Could the expression of vindictive feelings contribute to the wellbeing of victims (raise their moral status; bring therapeutic relief)? It is argued that advocates of both types of justice proceedings sometimes raise expectations that cannot be met. VIS-proponents tend to ‘privatise’ justice, whereas RJ-proponents tend to neglect retributive needs. It is concluded that a civilised expression of vindictive feelings should have a legitimate place in justice proceedings because it communicates the victim’s worth (‘not deserving to be harmed’). However, the question is whether justice proceedings should explicitly promote therapeutic benefits at all. (Author’s Abstract)


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