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Prison Service Journal – Issue 160 – July 2005

Review of Surviving Violent Crime and the Criminal Justice Injuries Compensation Authority: A Guide for Progress and Living Well
Simon Duckett

Much is expressed in the discussion about crime and justice about looking after the needs of victims. The government has a highly developed commitment to victims of crime and there are an increasing number of initiatives in their name. The sad reality however is that the real needs of victims as people can easily be neglected in the instrumental approach to them as witnesses. Look at what has happened to those who report an incident of rape. The conviction rate is at an all time low with some 5% ending up with a finding of guilt. More and more victims of crime are dissatisfied with the justice process. The priority for the justice system, its practitioners and its performance measures is to narrow the gap between reported crime and the number of cases that come to trial. Too many offences are unresolved.

  • What victims want from the justice system in order to meet their needs may well be different from what the system wants for and from them. Successive British Crime Surveys have shown that victims are not as punitive as portrayed in media headlines or the haunted few high profile sufferers who are asked for their opinion in response to news of the latest horrific incident. Most victims want to make sure that they achieve:
  • Compensation from the offender – even for its symbolic value.
  • Answers as to why the crime happened to them.
  • Some answers to questions can only be given by others and offenders especially.
  • Understanding why they responded as they did.
  • Knowing what to do if it happens again.
  • Having opportunities to communicate emotions – anger and fear – to have them endorsed by others and validated in the process.
  • Expression of retributive emotions. This can be a crucial part of the healing process for victims. If this cannot happen then justice is denied.
  • Empowerment. Personal autonomy has often been stolen from victims and they need to have the sense of personal power returned.
  • The recovery of a sense of security – they need the reassurance that steps are being taken to avoid the recurrence of the crime.
At last there is a book to enable victims to get the support to achieve their needs through some self help. Surviving Crime and the Criminal Compensation Authority by Simon Duckett is a powerful piece of writing with great energy and insight. It is immensely reassuring for those affected by crime to have such a volume to hand and it should be provided by the justice system as part of anyone's survival kit. Sadly the book will be regarded as a subversive document by many working in the justice system and even those who have set up processes to support victims of crime as Simon Duckett is pretty scathing about the provision of current services to victims. His stance is that you will have to fight hard to get what you need because no one else is really looking after you. Even the support groups for victims he regards as seeking to promote your victim status rather than help you work through it and come out of the experience as a survivor. Without a strong constitution, I can see that many will find the labyrinthine Kafkaesque experience of working with criminal justice agencies as confusing for the crime victim as the original state of shock and disorientation must be have been. With this level of isolation the book provides an understanding of some of the agencies and the range of effects that the trauma of crime can bring about. The handbook is an attempt to place it all into perspective. Fortunately Simon Duckett provides several directories of source of support and some very helpful charts showing the position of services and agencies.

The book is full of valuable information painstakingly researched and imaginatively assembled. It is a reference book on issues such as trauma, the justice system, health agencies, advocacy, balanced healthy living and for setting up services for those affected by crime. It encourages all of us to be responsible and active in making vulnerable groups socially and politically active. It is through the authentic voice of victims who have moved through their experience of trauma to support the provision of realistic and personal support for others that we will begin to meet the needs of those damaged through crime.

© May 2005 Mr Tim Newell: Former Prison Governor active Restorative Justice Facilitator

Justice of the Peace, September 2003

This is an informative handbook for people who have experienced crimes of violence or abuse or other forms of injustice and who wish to take their cases to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority for State compensation. It is a paperback of 477 pages and is therefore quite a detailed book. It is a practical and cogently written guide for the individual who has been traumatized by some act of aggression, explaining how to proceed with their claim.

The first half of the book deals in a sensitive way with the practical and personal problems experienced by such a victim and how best to deal with these. The author has a background in Social Services and he writes in a knowledgeable way about how the victim should engage with the authorities when explaining what has happened.

There is an excellent website linked to the book which can be found at www.officium.org.uk which I visited and was impressed by the sensitive and practical approach adopted.

At the back of the book is a detailed directory of useful contact numbers, names and addresses.
In my opinion, authorities who are dealing with victims of abuse would find this book useful as a reference for individuals who have experienced violence or other injustice.

© Valerie Sterling, Barrister 2003

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