A rational approach programme development model for crime victims

Criminology Research Council grant ; (9/91)

This research was requested by the Crime Victims Advisory Committee, with a view to establishing the needs of victims of crime in the Northern Territory. Data were collected from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal samples, using different methodologies which took into account the cultural differences between the two groups.

This study has clearly demonstrated that the victim is in a less powerful situation following the crime, and they may be suffering physical, emotional, social, and financial effects. Thus, the victim may benefit from knowledge concerning both generic and specific services which are presented in an organised and clear manner, as a matter of routine, rather than arising from an expression of need, or by demonstration of inadequate coping.

The many similarities of victims across crime type, however, should not be used as a reason to provide, either, all victims with support, or all victims' with one type of support. It has been demonstrated that the historical assumption that the needs of victims as being met by a general "payment" of recompense or act of discipline by society and the state does not meet the needs of those affected.

The results indicate that victims are seeking greater information, control, and involvement with the police and criminal justice system. The types of improvement that they have indicated, on the whole reflect realistic approaches in an attempt to problem-solve the situation in which they have come to find themselves. It is recognised that, following the crime being committed, the only possible solution is to minimise its impact, and the impact of the criminal justice system procedures.

The improvements to service provision that victims suggest reflect their experiences of the system. Thus, they emphasised the practical and the provision of information. Suggestions made were: (i) the provision of a counsellor who is aware of issues of race and gender as they affect the victim; (ii) training of police officers on the effects of crime on a victim and the victim's role; (iii) a central contact officer responsible for each victim; and (iv) recognition of the victim/witness role by head office and local branches, as well as greater police community involvement.

Suggestions were also made for improvements for the court system: (i) minimising time delays and numbers of adjournments; (ii) more appropriate sentencing, a formalised bail process which includes procedural notification to the victim of relevant decisions; and (iii) greater support for emotional/counselling and a protective environment for the victim.

In addition to improvement in the functioning of the existing criminal justice system structure, victims of crime involved in this study have also made suggestions relating to new services for victims. These are services primarily designed to reduce the impact of the initial experience of the crime.