Accountability, Responsibility & Consequence: What’s Missing?
The process of victimization and the justice system has many flaws that are not visible to the public.
Typically, the criminal justice system is seen in terms of prosecutors and the accused or occasionally of judges or juries.
Yet, without victims, the criminal process loses its focus. Victims are central to crime and are uniquely capable of assessing the quality of the criminal justice process. However, victims are locked out of the process and there is no apparent desire to include them.
This is unfortunate as unless an individual is a victim they would not know the failures that exist and what they mean.
At present, aside from the shock and adjustment to their life altering experiences, victims often feel isolated and do not speak-out about their experiences. In many cases victims are advised not to speak by Crown attorneys and police.
Collectively we do not really understand what victims know, which must change if we are to meaningfully address the way our society addresses crime, its aftermath and the futures of those touched by violent crime.
“The effective functioning of our justice system relies upon the voluntary cooperation of crime victims to report the crimes against them and testify truthfully when called upon.
Lack of trust of the system and belief that it is unjust cripple the nation’s confidence in its courts wherever it occurs.
This has dangerous consequences for Canada’s Justice system.
But creating rights for Canadian crime victims does not.”
• Criminals must be held responsible for their actions and made accountable.
• Crown Attorneys must also be responsible with respect to the rights and needs of victims.
• Courts and judges must be responsible in and for their rulings during a proceeding and at sentencing.
• Parole Boards must be responsible in and for their decisions.
“Our concerns are not vengeance nor retribution, but in sparing the next victim, the avoidable re-victimization that has become a daily occurrence in the criminal justice process”
– Joe Wamback
• The sentence given for a crime must reflect the severity of that crime.
• A sentence must be meaningful to a criminal. Deterrence and denunciation must be considered in sentencing.
• The rights and needs of victims are vital considerations in determining a sentence for a crime or conditions for parole.
“Without consequence there is no accountability”
• Victimization is a random event that can happen to anybody.
• It is the responsibility of all governments to have in place adequate systems for meeting the needs of victims.
• This same responsibility extends to all political parties – so there must be nonpartisan co-operation to achieve success.
• Policies must be designed in consultation with victims of crime.
• Follow-through with victim-oriented changes must occur in government bodies and agencies.
• Creating adequate and appropriate services for victims of crime is a prudent and compassionate duty.
In order to incorporate victims of crime into the criminal justice process the following are necessary:
1. Criteria should be established for when bail is denied that reflects the crime in question and the existing evidence.
2. Court officials and lawyers must be made aware of and accountable for respecting the rights, needs and wishes of victims.
3. Parole Boards should ensure effective reviews occur following inappropriate release of an offender, that improvements to their processes are made and that sufficient reliance on experts occurs.
4. Serious crimes must carry serious sentences.
5. Violent offences should no longer be eligible for conditional sentences.
6. The practice of reducing sentences by double or triple or quadruple the amount of time held in pre-trial custody must be eliminated, therefore providing truth in sentencing.