How to make amends

Victims of Crime and Community Justice
June 2, 2006

Statutory compensation schemes for victims of crime, which were first introduced during the 1960s, signalled not only official concern and recognition of victims' needs but also an appreciation of the responsibility of the state for meeting such needs. This book describes the process that led5 legislators and policymakers to address this constantly expanding area of the criminal justice system.

That the issue of victims is a highly politicised one is illustrated by the fact that, in many jurisdictions, access to compensation is limited to "deserving" or "innocent" victims, thus leaving to politicians and legislators the task of establishing criteria of eligibility. Moreover, the intention to "do something" about victims may be a mere symbolic or rhetorical tool available to political parties.

Brian Williams discusses these issues in six chapters, which provide an overview of victim policy internationally and devote some key sections to community and restorative justice. Restorative justice, even when offender-led - that is, intended to pursue offenders' rehabilitation - is said to benefit victims as well. After a comparative analysis of victim movements and a thorough description of service provision, the book closes with the identification of areas of policy and practice that are ripe for change. Among these are the victims of corporate and organised crime, namely large numbers of individuals whose needs are not met effectively by existing policies and services. Again, failure to meet these needs exemplifies how concerns for victims may be the result of political choice: to recognise the victims of corporate crime means to recognise the existence of corporate criminals.

Vincenzo Ruggiero is professor of sociology, Middlesex University.

Victims of Crime and Community Justice

Author - Brian Williams
Publisher - Jessica Kingsley
Pages - 176
Price - £16.95
ISBN - 1 84310 195 5

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