Sunday, September 04, 2005

Victim's Advocates

The Government has announced that it has issued a consultation paper and that it will run a pilot providing the families of victims of murder and manslaughter an advocate to speak up in Court on their behalf.

This is a ridiculous idea that I dismissed several months ago as sheer lunacy, and now it looks like our daft Government wants to consider the proposal as a reality. Thankfully the Government has dropped the idea of a victim's advocate for other serious cases such as rape.

I cannot see how an advocate for the family of a victim of murder or manslaughter can add to the Court proceedings. It is already established practice for the Police and other Government agencies to liaise with these families. In some cases impact statements are produced by the families and are given to Judge's before a Defendant is sentenced.

I have not yet read the consultation paper in full but it does seem to keep away from the idea of involving these victim's advocates in a trial process. So if an advocate represents the family at the sentence hearing how will they know what was proved at trial, or whether there was a basis of plea etc.? Surely the family will push the version of events known to them as opposed to the version agreed within the Court?

MY biggest gripe about this foolish enterprise is how are these advocates going to be paid? The government has said for years that the legal aid budget has finite resources and in the past year or so there have been dramatic announcements by the Department for Constitutional Affairs telling barristers and solicitors that they must put up with pay cuts. Are the victims advocates going to be funded by the government in a system similar to prosecution work where there seems to be limitless resources?

It just strikes me as strange that there is already a framework in place for victim's families t be supported and informed about the progress of a prosecution. If this system is not working why not revamp the current system instead of bringing in an additional advocate to a Court hearing.

Is it right that the Government cuts the scope and availability of legal aid to Defendants, that it cuts rates of pay to defence solicitors and barristers, and then out money to victim's advocates when there is already provision for victim's families to have a voice in Court?

3 comments:

Lennie Briscoe said...

Can the defendant make a statement to the court after being found guilty? If the defendant can, so should the victim, or neither. To be honest better to have neither. Less time & beurocracy...

Gavin said...

The Defendant can always present his mitigation, but he is going to be restricted to the facts upon which he was found guilty of.

These ideas that the Home Office just astound me.

Tim said...

Would you not prefer an advocate for the victim in some cases of rape rather than s41 of the YJCEA 1999? Apparently most of the questioning that rape victims objected to could have been inaddmissable pre s41 by simple use of the judge's discretion. One of the main problems was prosecutors not getting on their feet to object to a line of questioning when it would have been advisable to do so (well, why should they; they don't represent the victim)?

I do agree with your points regarding the funding. Although in some senses it would be members of the bar acting as victim's representatives and so at least some money would be heading in the right way!