Victims rights


April 24, 2013

 Department of Justice – Government of Canada
Government of Canada Launches Consultations on the Victims Bill of Rights

 Consultations open to the public will be hosted on-line from May 1 to June 30, 2013. Those interested in participating can visit the Department of Justice’s website for more information starting May 1, 2013.

 The challenge of the Victims Bill of Rights:

A reflection by Catherine Latimer of the John Howard Society

 Hopefully those working with victims, working to prevent victimization, working to assure a place for victims in justice system alternatives, like restorative justice, mediation, peace circles, etc., and working to support victims through the formal criminal justice system in a manner that respects criminal law principles and Charter-guaranteed rights will have an opportunity to share ideas with each other and contribute to the development of the Victims Bill of Rights.  While I am sure we all agree on the provision of services to victims and victim prevention, there are some contentious issues that really would benefit from a thoughtful discussion.  The definition of ‘victim’ for the purposes of benefits and services is an example.  Why are some who fit the definition of “victim” not entitled to support?  Legal theorists generally thought that the emergence of criminal law centuries ago from tort law was an improvement in terms of fairness, objectivity and preserving the peace.  Legal scholars might want to give serious thought to the appropriate role of the victim in the criminal justice and corrections system in comparison with the role of the victim in civil law.  Sources for adequate funding for victims services also warrants some discussion.  In my testimony before the Senate committee on Bill C-37, which relates to mandatory victim surcharges with no judicial discretion to waive the amount in cases of financial hardship, the costs of the process involving two court appearances, provision of fine option programs, and custody for willing defaulters will likely erode the revenues from the surcharges.

 L.A. Times – Editorial Opinion
Legal help for detainees

 The decision to provide legal aid for mentally disabled detainees coming as it does from Obama and then independently from a federal judge will require screening and will require extension of the policy for legal protection for children awaiting deportation.,0,4723195.story 

 Huffington Post – Impact Canada
Restorative Justice: Re-storying What Happened in Boston

 Says author Pierre R. Berastain: “But tragedy invites us to pause, to take a moment of communal silence and reflection. In the wake of shattering events, we find an invitation to re-understand and re-imagine how we are connected with one another, how we fit in a wide web of existence, and how we can transform our communities. And this is where restorative justice practices can provide that space we lack in our schools, jobs, and sometimes even home.”

Restorative Works Learning Network
Restorative practices reduce suspensions in Ontario school district

 Since implementation in 2006, the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board has seen considerable reduction in suspensions.  Says co-ordinator Al Wray: “We can get at the cause of what was going on in the students mind and their decision making process. That’s what changes their behaviour, suspending them doesn’t.” 

 BBC News (Bristol)
Restorative justice sees violent offenders avoid court

 A police supported RJ process saw 1800 youth avoid the court route last year.  First, the victim is approached and then if the offender admits responsibility, and the police officers approves, then a meeting with victim input on punishment takes place.

 The Economist (UK) – Buttonwood
Economics and crime – Gangs, grog, guns and GDP

 Here’s a well known business magazine story suggesting that the expected increase in crime during harder times is not taking place and offers recent report from the Institute for Economics and Peace for a partial explanation. UK Peace Index full report in PDF: 

Related story also from this Institute for Economics and Peace report:
Violent crime costs the UK economy £124 billion, report suggests

Vera Institute of Justice –
Vera Releases New Guide for Juvenile Justice Service Providers  –  Handbook on becoming an evidence-based practice can aid wide range of social service practitioners

 Called “Measuring Success: A Guide to Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice,” the guide is part of the MacArthur Foundation Models for Change initiative. The Vera Institute of Justice created this guide, which describes the process that assesses whether a program qualifies as evidence based. Guide in PDF format:

 Derbyshire Times (UK)
Courts’ high custody rating

 There is some suspicion that in the UK where the trail is also determines if the sentence will be jail.  Likewise, in places where the imprisonment rates are lower, in some cases the magistrate’s court is responsible for considerable imprisonment sentences.  Media has begun referring to the phenomenon as “judicial postcode lottery.”  Related article:  Courts accused of ‘postcode lottery’

 CBC News –
Toronto court rules woman must remove niqab to testify – Judge says veil would obscure ability to assess woman’s demeanour

 Following the discretion given the judges by a recent Supreme Court ruling, a judge has decided that a victim in a rape case must remove her niqab before testifying in a sexual assault case.  

 CBC News
MPs pass anti-terror bill – Bill would increase existing penalties for certain terrorism-related offences

 Liberals joined with the Conservatives to pass Bill S7 intended to revive the provisions on security matters that Parliament sunsetted  after five years in 2007.  Measure include three days ‘preventative detention’ and 12 months in jail for refusing to answer questions in an ‘investigative hearing.’ 

 ACLU (Texas) – Cat McCulloch
Youth Solitary Confinement in Texas: A Two-Step in the Right Direction

The use of solitary was invoked over 37,000 times in 2011, even though most thinks the practice psychologically devastating for children.  There are a number of legal proposals to help end the practice.