Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Are We Just Out For Blood? - Jacqui Hodgkiss

I appreciate that in recent times there has been a raising of awareness on victim impact, which I wholeheartedly support. However, this can not be at the expense of jeopardising British standards of the process of a fair and legal trial. Victims and their families are, understandably, highly emotional in the aftermath of any offence. Feelings such as these must not be allowed to have a place in the rule of law, to ensure a fair and just legal system. There are good reasons why matters are placed into impartial hands of our police and courts. Nor should policing or courts be pressurised by angry mob mentalities to make arrests and rulings in order to appease an enraged public. Such decisions should not be placed in the care of those whose emotional turmoil may lead to the desire of locking people up and throwing away the key, but by those who can impartially assess and appraise the individual nuances and circumstances of each and every case. As a society that values individuality we understand that generalisation born from prejudicial attitudes rarely offers fairness.
But what about the emotional impact on the families? Well, systems in other countries successfully manage these issues without compromising the right to a fair and just trial. For example victim impact statements at sentencing. Once guilt or innocence has been established, by good police work and competent legal professionals, victims can then play a role without prejudicing proceedings. 

Currently, it is possible that victims can influence outcomes of trials with their rights to express in the media allegations of guilt and innocence coupled with, what may be viewed as character assassinations of those standing trial, based solely on their own assumptions and before the evidence is put before a court. This is a right many defendants' claim they are denied as they can only idly stand by, bound by laws that do not allow the defendant to challenge these assignations or address misinformation that colour public opinion unfavourably against them. We all want to see justice being served, but with such comprises is it justice? Is the right person being put behind bars, or should we ask ourselves are we just out for blood?

Jacqui Hodgkiss