Criminological Perspectives on Probation
This assignment will critically discuss whether victims are at the heart of criminal justice (CJ) considerations for policy reform. It will consider a number of theoretical perspectives, including victimology and critically discuss how the needs of victims of crime, including the services available, are tackled through a criminal justice response and the demands of the victim movement.
The essay will demonstrate the impact of politics upon policy and practice initiatives on both a national and local level. Furthermore, there will be a discussion predominately about how probation policy and practice can appropriately respond to the needs and ...view middle of the document...
Adversarial justice appears to be constructed as a conflict between the state and defendant, where the victim often plays a peripheral role as a witness. This can lead to a variety of negative experiences for victims, as highlighted in the courts, ‘where the adversarial system emphasises the principle of orality, meaning the victim is cross-examined within a court environment’ (Goodey, 2005:154) and subsequently becomes open to further vulnerability and are less likely to report crime.
Since the 70s, victims have previously been mis-used in an increasing climate of retributive justice, as the ‘emotive tool for meting out severe sentences as governments appealed to populist demands for tough action against criminal’ (Sarat ,1997 cited in Goodey, 2005: 2). It could also be argued that with the British government’s adoption of both crime and victim surveys, in the 1980s, victims had firmly entered the central spotlight of the criminological stage and therefore needed to be considered. However, the British Crime Survey (BCS), did not initially emerge as a victim-centred initiative but surfaced as a reaction to rising crime rates; growing media interest in victims; increasing calls from single-issue campaigning groups, such as feminists, against the victimisation of vulnerable people; and public demand for a political response in seeing criminal justice as a service provider not just for the offender but for the victim too. In addition, this growth in public, media and political concerns about crime and victims’ needs could be interpreted against a ‘wider growing concern centred around actuarial justice, fear and globalisation’ (Kemshall et al, 2000:24) but simultaneously, in the 1980s, a less politicised response to victims, away from single-issue groups, also emerged in form of the charity Victim Support.
The introduction of the Victim’s Charter (1990) also, ‘set out for the first time the rights and entitlements of victims of crime’ (Mawby and Walklate, 1998:170) and this further pushed the victim to the fore of criminal justice consideration. However, while the Charter appeared to provide a framework of good practice across all aspects of the Criminal Justice System (CJS), very little of the Charter was backed by legislation. This was highlighted because while it outlined the responsibilities of the criminal justice agencies it did not hold them accountable for failing to keep to these.
For example, while the police were tasked to ‘respond to complaints of crime with all due courtesy and attention’ and probation ‘wherever possible, made contact with victims or their family when a life prisoner was released on licence’ (Mawby and Walklate, 1998:170), it was not actually made statutory until 2006. However, despite this a Witness Satisfaction Survey (2002) ‘found that four out of five victims were very satisfied with their treatment within the CJS’ (cited Audit commission, 2003:13).
Determining whether victims are at the heart...