Final Thesis - DAVIES.pdf (2.17 MB)
Stories of pervasive uncertainty : a victim-focused analysis of victim impact statements and sentencing in secual offence cases
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 09:46 authored by Davies, RC
Victim impact statements outline the harm caused to victims by the offending committed against them. These statements were introduced across Australia from the 1980s as part of legislative and policy reforms that were designed, at least in part, to address barriers contributing to high attrition rates for sexual offence prosecutions, and to reduce anti-therapeutic aspects of victim involvement in the criminal justice process. Yet little research has been undertaken to explore impact statements in the context of sexual offending. Previous research has generally excluded victims of sexual assault, not distinguished their experiences from those of other victims, or not involved interviews with victims themselves. This thesis discusses findings from an empirical study of impact statements and sentencing from the perspective of victims of sexual offending from four Australian jurisdictions. Analyses of sentencing transcripts and interviews with victims and justice professionals reveal four key findings and produce four original contributions to knowledge. The first is the discovery of a lack of understanding among justice professionals, and the victims with whom they work, as to the actual purpose of victim impact statements. Consequently, a model has been developed to achieve clarity and consistency in impact statement purpose and use across the research jurisdictions. The second finding is that the operation of victims' rights instruments in some jurisdictions creates problems around the provision of information to victims. This may be further compounded by the third finding, namely that justice professionals appear to lack training in skills for communicating effectively with victims. In response, recommendations are made for the reform of victims' rights instruments, and strategies are provided to improve communication between professionals and victims of crime. The fourth finding is the identification of different judicial approaches when acknowledging victims and their impact statements at sentencing. This has generated recommendations for educative processes to assist judges to develop a clearer understanding of the possible therapeutic and anti-therapeutic consequences of this acknowledgment.
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