n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - A silver era for victims of crime : reassessing the role that victim impact statements can play in improving victim involvement in criminal justice procedures

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It is postulated that the victims of crime are often regarded as the "Cinderellas" or "step children" of the criminal justice system, regardless of the paradigm shift in the thinking of criminal justice agencies from mainly focusing on arresting and prosecuting criminals to the better treatment of and service delivery to victims of crime. One way of accomplishing this paradigm shift is by the introduction of victim impact statements in the criminal justice system. A victim impact statement is a statement made by crime victims expressing the impact the crime has had on them or their families and can be written or orally submitted by audio, video or other electronic means to the court. This article provides an exposition of the contents of a victim impact statement such as the emotional and physical impact of the crime, financial losses suffered by the victim, and the victim's opinion on sentencing. Furthermore, a discussion of the recommendations of the South African Law Commission (SALC) is also covered in this article. The SALC discussion paper on Sexual Offences : Process and Procedure is aimed at reforming the law in such a way that victims of sexual violence would be encouraged to approach the criminal justice system for assistance and to improve the experiences of those victims who choose to enter the system. According to the SALC, one of the ways of acknowledging victims of sexual violence in the legal process is through victim impact statements. The SALC also refer to the difficulty of child crime victims and witnesses in giving evidence in court and how victim impact statements can be utilised to assist the child to articulate the impact of the crime by drawings or story telling. Finally, the article not only highlights some of the criticism against victim impact statements but also the advantages of victim impact statements for the victims and criminal justice agencies.


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