Preventing harm, promoting harmony

Preventing harm, promoting harmony

Concluding chapter in Victimisation: theory, research and policy,, ed. by Pamela Davies, Peter Francis and Victor Jupp. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Until quite recently the study of crime focused almost exclusively on the perpetrator. Offenders were, and are, researched, treated, punished, and sometimes helped to recover from the punishment. Attempts are made to classify them and to find patterns, but there are no characteristics which are shared by all of them and not shared by those who are not (or not known to be) offenders. Later the families and social backgrounds were scrutinized (only of those who were detected, of course, apart from some self-report studies). But people who committed certain types of crime, such as ‘white-collar crime’, received much less attention, and many harmful acts are not defined as crimes. Either they remain outside the criminal law, to be dealt with if at all by tribunals or the self-regulatory bodies of the major professions; or in some cases the criminal law is used at one remove: instead of ‘You have broken the law and must be prosecuted and punished’, the accused are told ‘You have broken the law and unless you put matters right you will be prosecuted.’ This is a very different approach; originally it was chiefly used where the ‘victim’ was the state, in cases such as tax fraud, but it is beginning to be used for the benefit of individual and corporate victims.

In the mid-twentieth century victimology came on the scene, as Sandra Walklate outlines in her chapter. Here patterns are at least as hard to find: anyone can be a victim, rich or poor, powerful or vulnerable, young or old, male or female Of the traumas which people suffer in their lives, a very small proportion are defined as criminal, as the Dutch criminologist Louk Hulsman has pointed out. They attract particular attention because they are seen as involving one person who deliberately, or recklessly, satisfies his or her own wants or interests (or attempts to do so) in a way that harms another individual, and this is presumably why they are defined as criminal. However, some behaviour that is not criminal can cause at least as much financial loss and physical and psychological harm, and some of it is no less selfish or reckless. Thus the study and treatment of crime victims parallels that of offenders; it is commonly limited to those who have suffered certain types of harm.

Victimology, like the study of most social questions, tends to fall into two main parts. As regards victimization, we ask what are the facts, and as regards the response, what can be done about them? This book has not attempted to give a comprehensive survey of the whole field; rather it has selected aspects which throw light on the subject from particular angles. The picture might be summarized by saying, firstly, that the people we think of as victims of crime are not the only ones who suffer at the hands of their fellow citizens, nor even necessarily the most seriously harmed. Similarly, the acts we label as crimes are often less damaging than some of those which are not treated in that way. Thirdly, when people harm each other, the criminal justice system may not be the only, or the best, way of helping victims, and it can even make things worse. Turning to the search for a victim-oriented response, two particular forms of assistance are appreciated by many victims: support from the community and, when the offender is known, the opportunity to take part in resolving the matter. Finally, this dialogue between victims, offenders and other members of the community gives an opportunity to learn from the crimes that occur, and use the information to develop crime reduction policies, but also to create a much broader strategy to encourage people, from childhood up, to respect each other, to handle competing interests by negotiation, and to resolve conflicts non-violently, as a contribution to the creation of a safe and harmonious society.

Victimization

If we first ask what are the facts, this question in turn has two aspects: who are the victims, and what are they victims of?

Who are the victims?

Stereotypes of victims were often used without being recognized as such until victimology was established, and contributors to this book have shown that they are still common. The number of types of victims is almost as great as the number of types of human beings; this book has considered four categories: young people, women, older people, and communities. In the case of young people, especially males, John Muncie points out that the stereotype usually points to them as offenders; in the popular press they are often labelled with derogatory terms such as ‘thugs’. In fact, however, they are especially likely to be victims (as the Gulbenkian report Children and violence (1995) has shown in greater detail). In their first year of life they are at the greatest risk of murder. In adolescence, they are often bullied because they are from minority ethnic groups or ‘different’ in some other way. Their parents may use physical violence on them in the name of discipline, which would be classed as an assault, or worse, if done to an adult, and increases the likelihood that they in turn will be violent. If they do become violent, they may be placed in institutions where violence is endemic, and where conditions have in some cases been found to contravene the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These are of course further examples of harm which is not classified (or at least not treated) as criminal victimization.

The women’s movement has focused on violence against women and female children, but young males are most at risk, as Walklate points out, citing the work of Betsy Stanko and Kathy Hobdell, an academic and a Victim Support worker respectively. Women and girls are of course also at risk, and much of their victimization is invisible, although as Walklate says the women’s movement has now made it in some ways more visible than men’s. So once again there is some doubt about ‘what constitutes the real?’ and she reminds us that it includes offenders as well as victims: both are trying to deal with difficult circumstances, and the key to understanding is to treat both with respect.

Another stereotype is that old people are more likely to be victims of young violent criminals and to suffer disproportionately. It is true that they are sometimes harassed by children – a process which seems to have much in common with bullying – and obviously some elderly people are vulnerable. The fact is, however, that they can be physically and mentally tough, and less fearful than younger victims; Victim Support workers have numerous anecdotes about how elderly victims have thought up stratagems to frighten off intruders. They can also be sustained by being thoughtful, like one seriously injured elderly woman, who was concerned less about herself, since she had not much time left anyway, than about her young attacker, who was only just starting his life and she didn’t want him to waste it. Some of the worst victimization of elderly people is by their supposed carers, through physical or mental cruelty or embezzlement of their assets, and Rachel Pain raises once again the question of how best to intervene: is it more helpful to prosecute it as a crime, or to regard it as a problem for social services? Braithwaite (1998) quotes evidence that nursing homes checked by inspectors with a reintegrative shaming philosophy had improved two years later, while those dealt with by inspectors whose approach was either stigmatizing or tolerant and understanding got worse. In some cases ill-treatment results from frustration over apparently small matters, and to pre-empt this Age Concern (England) has recently appointed a Manager of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services whose remit includes, for example, disputes in sheltered housing.

It is usual to think of victims as individuals, or institutions such as shops and schools; but Karen Evans and Penny Fraser provide another perspective by looking at some communities in high-crime areas as victims. It has been observed for some years that crime is spatially patterned (see for example Brantingham and Brantingham 1975). Individuals (or groups) commit crime, but the conditions in which it is prevalent can be created by ‘the community’ in the form of its elected representatives and paid officials, through architectural design, housing allocation, and general neglect. Evans and Fraser refer to the ‘broken windows’ theory; this had been foreshadowed already in the 1970s, in the Cunningham Road Project in Widnes, in northern England, which showed that outside help can act as a catalyst to bring together groups within a run-down community, enabling it to pick itself up and tackle the incivilities which had demoralized it; these included a mixture of criminal and non-criminal problems (Nacro 1978; Wright 1982: 220-1). There have been many other similar projects, for example in Hartford, Connecticut (Fowler et al. 1979), and in Kirkholt, Lancashire (Forrester 1990); this suggests the possibility that an important part of a cost-effective crime reduction strategy should be, rather than sporadic short-term one-off pilot schemes, a regular programme introducing such projects wherever they are needed – and re-introducing them if they run out of steami. Needless to say they should be evaluated and, if effective, adequately funded.

Victimology has also dispelled the assumption that ‘lightning doesn’t strike twice’: Genn (1988) painted a bleak picture of a housing estate where victimization, being an everyday occurrence, was hardly thought of as such; Farrell and Pease (1991) looked behind the statistics to show that becoming a victim actually increases the chances of being targeted again; and suggested how the community could help to counter this, for example by concentrating assistance on those who have just been victims, to try to prevent a repetition.

What are they victims of?

The effect of various crimes on victims has become well-trodden ground since Maguire’s (1982) pioneering work on burglars and their victims. Less is heard about victimization by acts which have not been defined as criminal, and by the very efforts to deal with crime. One example of the former, among many, is provided by the food industry. Not only are people exposed to salmonella poisoning through battery chickens, among which the infection is rife, but farming practices are the likely cause of the hugely costly BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). Large figures are often quoted for the cost of crimes such as retail theft and criminal damage (£2,100 million in 1992/93 : Home Office 1995: 74); but it has been estimated that present-day farming practices cost the public £2,343 million in 1996. The costs, according to Professor Jules Pretty of the Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex, included £191m for the removal of pesticides, nitrates and phosphates, £1,113m from emissions of gases likely to contribute to climate change, £169m from food poisoning, and £607 from BSE. While shoplifting may add a few pence to the price of retail goods, Pretty argues that consumers pay for their food three times: over the counter, through farming subsidies of some £3bn a year, and through cleaning up the mess (Pretty 2001; McCarthy 2001). The methods proposed for dealing with this form of victimization are, of course, economic rather than through the criminal law..

In world trade, drugs are an addictive, damaging and ultimately lethal product, yet thousands of poor people and a smaller number of very rich ones make their living by producing and selling them. Each of those statements is also true of tobacco, and it is hard to see the moral difference, except that one has widely been declared criminal and the other has not. At a micro level, there is a thin line between crime and various perfectly legal rip-offs. One man uses a trick to get into your house and steal; another tells you that your roof needs repair, and charges you a ridiculous, but lawful, amount. I am one of those who has been victimized by a drain-clearing company, and it was all legal: the operative asked me to agree to each new operation which turned out to cost several times what I had expected. I felt like the man invited on to the stage, where the conjurer asked for his permission to take his gold watch and pound it into small pieces with a pestle and mortar. End of trick – all done with permission. The drainage firm was so law-abiding that it charged me VAT as well; and I also experienced the shame of the victim: to this day I cannot admit how much I was charged.

It is perhaps even worse when we are victimized not by criminals or unscrupulous traders but by those who are supposed to protect us. Michael McCahill and Clive Norris show how closed-circuit television (CCTV) has been used to target particular social and racial groups, who may then be ejected from a public place where they had every right to be, and the cameras can be misused in other ways as wellii. Similarly with identity cards: since the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the British media have been full of debate about how ID cards, ostensibly a safeguard, could put innocent civilians at risk. Respectable-looking citizens would seldom be stopped; if they were, and had left their ID cards at home, they could probably talk their way out of it; while those of foreign appearance, or wearing ‘subcultural attire’ (such as the tracksuits and baseball caps which get them excluded from shopping malls) could be harassed and criminalized, possibly by private security guards against whom there is less redress than against police officers (see national newspapers, late September and early October 2001, passim).

Genetic testing, and drugs testing for athletes, can also victimize people, as McCahill and Norris show; once again the victimization is outside the scope of the criminal law, although it can be seriously unjust: since for example a badly conducted drugs test can ruin an athlete’s career, and the insurance industry is contravening the whole insurance philosophy of shared risk if it uses tests to exclude people with certain genetic features.

Re-victimization by the criminal justice system

In a system still largely focused on offenders, the first milestone towards the development of awareness of victims, in Britain, was the creation of Victim Support in 1974. Within a decade it had grown in most of the country, and provided a focal point where those who had hitherto suffered in isolation could tell their stories of how they had been treated, or more often ignored, by ‘the system’. Joanna Shapland’s innovative research showed how casually victims were treated by the police, whether a suspect was apprehended or not (Shapland et al. 1985). This was complemented by Roger Graef’s television documentary in 1982 about police attitudes to rape victims. As Pamela Davies suggests in her chapter, victims seem to come third in police priorities, after convicting offenders and preventing crime; moreover, their work is often biased by stereotypes of victims as deserving, innocent, negligent, provocative and so on.

The number of victims who have dealings with the courts is much smaller, but the impact can be much more traumatic, ranging from not even being told that the trial is taking place to being publicly humiliated by a defending barrister. Victim Support drew attention to this, as Davies mentions, in the report of a working party led by a former chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, Lady Ralphs (Victim Support 1988), and followed it up with an action research project which showed how trained volunteers can help victims (and other witnesses) through the process (Raine and Smith 1991). This is now happening in all Crown Court centres, and being extended to magistrates’ courts. The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (1993), after being nudged by Victim Support, included some recommendations for improvement; the General Council of the Bar, for example, modified its Code to allow prosecutors to speak to victims before the trial (Bar Council 1997).

In their fieldwork in 1990-92, Cretney and Davies (1995: 149-54) still found many of the familiar complaints – delays, lack of information, hostile cross-examination – and rape victims studied in 1993-95 by Temkin (2000) were still exposed to barristers who tried to discredit them and to ask about their previous sexual histories. Although judges’ permission has to be asked before raising previous histories, and prosecutors should, according to the Victim’s charter, challenge untrue statements in pleas for mitigation of sentence (Home Office 1990, 1996), these safeguards have not been entirely effective. Child witnesses in cases involving sex, violence or cruelty, can give their evidence by a closed-circuit television link (ibid.); this protection has not however been extended to other vulnerable witnesses. I have argued elsewhere that victims are always likely to have a rougher ride in a system that is adversarial and based on the punishment of the offender: the more severe the threatened punishment, the more he will do to try to avoid it, sometimes by intimidating witnesses (Wright 1999, 2001).

Towards a restorative response

Support from the community

What should be the response? We need to begin by reminding ourselves that many victims can take crimes, especially the less serious ones, in their stride. But there are two forms of assistance which many of them welcome: support from the community and, when the offender is known, the opportunity to take part in the process of resolving the matter. Much of what is needed is implicit in the foregoing critique. Rob Mawby describes how a range of countries have offered assistance to victims. Thought also needs to be given to the best structure for the provision of victim assistance; Mawby’s survey provides various examples. Obviously this depends on local cultures and circumstances. In some countries it is done by statutory agencies; but there are attractions in the idea of members of the community spontaneously forming a voluntary organization (NGO) in which volunteers express neighbourly concern and show solidarity, and refer them to professional help such as counselling or financial advice where needed. Financial support from central or local government can relieve such groups of the struggle of fund-raising. Among the advantages are that this is a way of involving the local community, volunteers are available outside office hours, and they cost less – though they need salaried staff to train, support, and supervise them. However, in high-crime areas there may be too few volunteers to contact victims all personally; in some countries the data protection laws mean that the police must obtain the victim’s permission before passing on their name; and in countries where working hours are very long, it may be difficult to recruit enough volunteers.

It is also difficult to guarantee a service provided by volunteers, but statutory services are not always available either, unless there is some enforcement system. A country which wants to do the best it can for victims would ensure that victim assistance services are adequately funded, and (as some do) provide financial assistance to victims who want to engage a lawyer to claim their entitlement. As Mawby shows, there may be different organizations for various types of victims (the elderly, tourists), and for victims of different traumas, especially domestic violence and abuse of children; in England there is one for victims of road traffic crashes and another for medical negligence, for example, and in Italy there is no ‘umbrella organization’ for assistance to victims but there are associations for victims of terrorists, the mafia, railway crashes and so on, usually created by survivors and relatives.

For many victims, a practical form of help is compensation. The basis for this is not entirely consistent. Society’s response can vary on the basis of quite extraneous factors; for example, compensation for an iatrogenic injury may depend not on the victim’s needs but on whether the doctor is proved to have been negligent, and compensation for a criminal injury (in the United Kingdom) on whether the victim has a previous criminal record, as Davies mentions in her chapter.

For crimes against property, individuals and organizations are supposed to cover themselves through insurance, if they choose to, and to rely on social security if the crime has left them destitute. For crimes of violence, in countries such as the United Kingdom most medical costs are borne by the National Health Service, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority pays an additional sum related to the seriousness of the injury, mostly thought of as compensation for pain and suffering. In some countries the state compensation is swallowed up by the medical costs. In a welfare state, it is not obvious why a person who is disabled by an injury should be treated differently according to whether the injury was caused through, say, an accident at work, a sporting accident, medical negligence, or crime. In New Zealand the Accident Compensation Commission provides only for ‘work and non-work’ injuries, with no separate criminal category except for sensitive cases such as sexual abuse; it is funded through premiums, and can help with medical and surgical bills, rehabilitation, support in the home, and up to 80 per cent of lost earnings (subject to a maximum), with allowances for serious long-term effects (New Zealand 2001). The needs of people with a particular injury are similar, whatever the cause. The source of the compensation might vary, however: if an individual or organization was responsible or negligent, they might be required to pay, with the state making up the difference if they were unable to, as is often the case with individual offenders. Perhaps there should be a clearer distinction between the cost of treatment, loss of earnings, and so on, and compensation for intangibles such as the particular fear, anger and other emotions which victims of crime of violence are likely to experience (for further discussion see Victim Support 1993, Wright 1998).

Several countries tackle the problem of the offender who cannot pay, by establishing a ‘resocialization fund’. The fund is created by the state, or from fines, or private donations, or a combination. An offender can apply to it for the sum he needs for compensation (and often other debts), and if he appears to be a good risk the fund paysiii. Thus the victim receives the amount at once, not in small irregular instalments, and the offender pays it back either in cash, when he finds work, or by doing community service for which a notional hourly rate is paid (Wright 1988).

If the court is to order the offender to pay compensation (whether by a compensation order as in the United Kingdom – ‘restitution order’ in the United States – or in a linked civil action as in some continental countries) the victim needs to indicate the loss or harm suffered. There are arrangements for this, but a common criticism of the criminal justice process has been that it focuses only on the financial aspect, while the victim’s voice remains unheard. The apparent solution is to let them be heard. Unfortunately it is not so easy. In much of North America and Australasia victims can make victim impact statements before sentence is passed, but in Britain it has been felt that that could be burdensome to victims and lead to unfairness to offenders. A modified scheme has therefore been introduced, in October 2001, in which victims are invited to make a ‘personal statement’ at the beginning of the process. In this way, the statements are distanced from sentencing and can be used for other purposes such as providing prosecutors with information so that they can challenge inaccurate pleas in mitigation. However, the researchers of the pilot projects have pointed out that there are two contradictory aims. The first they call cathartic, enabling victims to describe what they have suffered and their feelings, but not affecting sentence; the second is instrumental, providing information which may influence decisions. They recommend that the scheme should decide which its aim will be, but it appears to be trying to combine both. The leaflet for victims, in line with the Victim’s charter, says that the courts may use the statement when deciding if a defendant should be given bail; that the CPS will ‘consider the consequences for the victim and will take account of the views of the victim or the victim’s family’ in deciding whether to prosecute; and the court will ‘take account of’ how the offence has affected them; the victim’s views on sentence will not however be considered (Home Office 2001). Despite this, it appears that many victims expect the sentence to be affected, and are disillusioned when it is not. This helps to explain why, in the pilot projects, few victims chose to make a statementiv, only a third felt better as a result, and nearly a fifth felt worse (Hoyle et al. 1998, Morgan and Sanders 1999). Moreover, the statement becomes part of the case papers and may be seen by the defence; this could inhibit victims from expressing their feelings fully, because offenders, being potentially seriously affected, could cross-examine them about the statement, or even intimidate them.

An opportunity for dialogue

Sanders and colleagues (2001: 450), who researched the pilots of victim personal statements in England, have pointed out that what is missing in this system is dialogue between the victim and the criminal justice agencies (or, they might have added, with the offender). They would expect victims participating in restorative justice to be more satisfied than victims in conventional common or civil law systems (p. 456): ‘The more participative the process, the more satisfied the victim’ (p.457), and research appears to support this (Liebmann 1998). This, I would suggest, is the benefit for victims offered by processes such as victim/offender mediation and conferencing, specifically because they take place away from the courtroom and the prospect of punishment. Victims want different things: some simply want compensation; others want to show the offender that his action was hurtful, and why. Some want to enable him to put it right and do better in future. In some cases the expression of feelings is the only outcome, in others there is an element of reparation, but not of punishment (defined as a measure whose primary purpose is to inflict pain: Christie 1982). It is true that this only comes into operation when the offender does not deny the act of which he is accused, but that is the great majority of cases, and the reduced prospect of punishment is likely to reduce the number of denials. The less punitive the response, the greater the likelihood of finding the truth,v and hence the greater the prospect that some good will come from the harm – a common wish amongst victims. Victims are enabled to ask questions and discuss reparation; offenders are enabled to speak for themselves, apologize, and show that there is also some good in themvi. As Sanders and colleagues conclude, ‘Only a genuinely participative system can treat victims with the respect they deserve without giving them the power to influence decisions that are not appropriately theirs’ (ibid.: 458).

A learning experience for the community

Offenders, it is said, should learn their lesson. But it should be the right lesson. As Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, former Chair of the Howard League for Penal Reform, has written:

The message of punishment, in effect, is: ‘Behave well, because otherwise you will be made to suffer (if you are caught).’ Is it not more appropriate to admonish the offender and everyone else: ‘Behave well, because otherwise you will hurt other people, whether you are caught or not; and if you are caught, you will be required to pay back’ ? (Blom-Cooper 1988:55, italics in original).

It is not only the offender, however, who has to learn a lesson; in a restorative process other people learn from what took place. An advantage of the wide-ranging dialogue which victim/offender mediation and conferencing make possible is that, unlike the courtroom process, it is not focused on the narrow question of what sanction should be imposed on the offender, but it can help to explain how the crime came about. It holds the offender accountable for what he has done; but it can also throw light on the circumstances. Where the mediators are volunteers, this spreads understanding of crime through the community; at a more formal level, the information can be passed to those responsible for crime reduction strategies.

These are commonly divided into ‘situational’ ones, based on the principle that virtue is lack of opportunity, and ‘social’ approaches, recognizing that society as well as the offender shares responsibility for anti-social behaviour. Mediation and conferencing can contribute to both of these; and I will propose a third.

On situational influences, we may learn from mediations and conferences that, for example, windows were left open or cars unlocked. There may have been failures of supervision: too few shop assistants or railway station staff, or peripatetic concierges and park keepers instead of permanent ones. The implications for crime reduction are clear.

Social crime prevention is focused on the pressures towards crime (a more accurate term than ‘causes’): society as well as the individual shares responsibility. A mediation service may find that a number of young people come from a local school which has a high truancy rate, or has been dealing with problems by excluding its troublesome pupils, putting them and the community at risk. It may find that many of them have been in care, in which case we need to ask what needs to be done to improve the care of vulnerable young people. It might find problems with housing allocation (e.g. too many children in one housing estate), unemployment, youth clubs or sports facilities closed or starved of funds, or lack of adult involvement.

The dialogue may also show that attempts to control misbehaviour can be counterproductive: Muncie points to some practices conducive to crime, such as locking children in institutions; this should not be done except when it is unavoidable for the protection of themselves or the public from serious harm, and the regime should be based primarily on respect for their humanity and their needs. Physical punishment should be avoided altogether. (A fuller survey is provided by the Gulbenkian Foundation report mentioned above: Gulbenkian 1995). These examples are not new; they are well known to be potential influences on crime rates. The point is that a mediation service is well placed to observe which factors are present in its area, and pass the information to those responsible for crime reduction policy.

The third strategy might be called ‘individual’: the converse of the previous point is that the individual as well as society shares responsibility, and this third pillar of a crime reduction policy is based on encouraging people, especially young people, to want to refrain from committing crime. The primary method is to promote their self-respect by treating them with respect; this also encourages them to respect other people, and indeed other living creatures and the environment. Methods in schools, such as circle time, peer mediation, and the ‘shared concern’ approach to bullying, can show children how to resolve conflicts by listening to each other without either using violence or giving in (Alderson 1997, Mediation UK 1998, Curtis 2001). Contributors to this volume have given further examples. Rachel Pain describes how, if there is little contact between young and old in a community, older people may be afraid of local teenagers, sometimes with good reason, sometimes without; when such a situation is identified, a project like ‘Lifelink’ can bring different age groups together. As Evans and Fraser put it, in more general terms, crimes are committed when certain factors are present: motivated offenders, vulnerable victims and opportunity. The process of responding should include establishing which of these factors contributed, in what way, and how they can be removed or reduced.

Initiatives like these should form the basis of general social policies which are right not merely because they reduce crime and victimization but because they enable people and communities to develop their full potential. They are beginning in schools, as has been mentioned, but the use of mediation and related conflict-resolving techniques can be extended to adults and to other spheres of society: the workplace, the family, commerce, professionals and their clients, the environment, and between communities and indeed countries. Crime and conflict can never be eliminated – and perhaps the world would be dull if they were – but they can be used constructively to enable individuals and communities to ‘have life, and have it abundantly’.

 

ENDNOTES

i Projects of this kind may be generated by local initiatives (for example Waterville Projects (1997) in north-east England), local projects stimulated by national NGOs such as Nacro and Crime Concern (Warburton et al. 2000, Findlay et al. 1990, and numerous other publications of these organizations); or by local action encouraged by governments (King 1988, Crime Prevention Council 1994).

ii CCTV can also protect citizens, for example by recording police who assaulted a young black man in Brixton, south London, and attacked a white couple who tried to intervene (Evening Standard, 2 October 2001, 12).

iii Sometimes the fund negotiates a discount from large creditors such as hire purchase and electricity companies, on the analogy of bankruptcy proceedings.

iv It should be remembered that, although the rhetoric speaks of helping victims to recover from harm, in practice there is often more inconvenience than trauma; another reason why the labour-intensive process of arranging mediations or conferences should be reserved for cases where the victim has been much affected.

v One example of this is that when the CPS does not prosecute because it does not consider that it can satisfy the criminal standard of proof, some victims or their relatives take civil action in order to bring the offender to book: since the potential outcome is compensation rather than punishment, the standard of proof is less demanding.

vi There are various issues about the use of restorative justice, especially when linked to the criminal justice process, for example the degree of voluntariness of the offender’s participation, but they cannot be explored here; suffice it to say that they seem no more problematic than those raised by the conventional system.

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