Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Victim statements- what if they were hated?

Having listened to current affairs for a while and listened to last nights channel 4 news in the light of this pointless and barbaric murder (as reported on the BBC here) the fiancee of the victim had read out a victim statement on her behalf.

Fair enough. It seems it may have played some part in sentencing.

The question is though, what happens when someone is killed who no one cares about, nobody loves, or indeed who may be universally derided and hated within in their community?

Does it make killing them alright? Or at least better than killing someone who people like?

We need to be ware that we do not rank people in what could be a horrific way even though it is for the best of reasons.

Update 23:50 30th November 2006

I just wanted to make it clear that I was not talking about Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin laden as a potential person for whom no one would read a witness statement, but Eleanor Rigby or the like. You know, that man or woman who lives on their own, has odd ideas doesn't like kids and does not have any.


Ellee said...

Good point, I hadn't thought about that. Victim's statements sounds very Amecian to me. The sentencing powers are defined by statute so it would be up to prosecuting counsel to suggest what would be fitting.

Courtney Hamilton said...

Your right Ellee, it was the Americans that first introduced what is known as 'emotionalism' into the justice system, under the banner of extending 'rights' for victims. In fact, it's a major concession to allow victims to address a court before defendants' are sentenced.

Also, Benedict's post has rightfully highlighted the serious implication that the enhanced status of victims in court proceedings will have on the notion of a fair trial. As Benedict has alluded to, victims statements are on the whole rather arbitary and subjective affairs.

After all, murder, is murder, is murder, whether the victim is loved or not. If you ask me, introducing victim based emotionalism in the courtroom can only lead to more arbitary justice in the future, because it distracts the jugdes from taking a more objective view of evidence in their courts. For every victim statement read out in court, legal objectivity will be further undermined - is this what we really want from our courts?

Benedict White said...

Hmm.. Ellee and Courtney, i was not actually thinking that way when I posted the article, I was merely thinking that if no one cares that someone has died, does it make it less of a tragedy?

But now we have strayed here, and Courtney raises the issue of emotive justice, I have always been concerned about juries being told of the full horror of a crime as if it had some bearing on the guilt of the defendent. It doesn't. It does have a bearing on sentencing.

I would also agree with Cortneys other comments on sentencing as well.

billy said...

If nobody cares about the deceased then it must be less of a tragedy.
When the Americans finally get to murder Osama Bin Laden are we to get frightfully upset?
Murder, is murder, is murder, is often manslaughter with the victim just as dead but a lesser punishment for the perpetrator.

Benedict White said...

Interesting point Billy. I can't say I am goig to get the hankies out if Osama gets it.

I was though thinking of slightly less controversial figures. :)

Snafu said...

I recall David Blunkett apparently jumped around his office when he heard the news that Harold Shipman had committed suicide...

Benedict White said...

RE Snafu, I would like to say what I really thought of David Blunket, but I don't like to swear in print.

billy said...

Re Snafu

For a minute I thought I was reading that David Blunkett had jumped out his office. I got a warm feeling and didn't feel at all sorry.
Giving it further thought, I'd be deeply unhappy if the Labrador got hurt.

Re Less controversial figures.

Do you mean murderers of lesser stature? Of less conviction? OK, howsabout Bush, Blair and Campbell? At least two of them killed Dr. Kelly and the other one encouraged them, or so I've heard it alleged.

Benedict White said...

Actualy Billy, I meant the likes of Eleanor Rigby, who although a fictional charictor seems appropriate, and I have updated my article to reflect that.

billy said...

Didn't Eleanor Rigby have a social worker?