Criminal cases including the recent trial of George Pell raise concerns about the treatment of victims in adversarial criminal justice systems is the verdict of University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Senior Lecturer (Law) Dr Kerstin Braun.
“Especially in adversarial systems, victims play a marginalised role during proceedings,” Dr Braun said.
“They mainly act as witnesses providing evidence for the prosecution and have few possibilities to participate outside of this limited setting.”
The Pell trial highlights how defendants’ rights are traditionally prioritised over the needs of victims in the Australian criminal justice system.
Dr Braun’s new book, endorsed by leading international experts on victims’ rights, is Victim Participation Rights - Variation Across Criminal Justice Systems.
It explores how victims are able to participate to varying degrees in seven countries with different legal traditions.
“Some victims in jurisdictions such as Sweden and Germany play a very active role during criminal proceedings,” Dr Braun said.
“They are able to introduce evidence, question witnesses, object to certain questions and make statements including closing statements.
“While victims here may not be able to take up such a strong role due to limitations within the adversarial system, Australia could draw on the experiences of those systems in which victims’ rights are more prominent.
“Many victims report dissatisfaction with their treatment in the criminal justice system and some experience re-victimisation through proceedings.
“It is important to enhance their experiences and to ensure that victims perceive trials as fair.”
Dr Braun’s book, which was partially researched and written at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg, Germany, is an in-depth analysis into victims’ active participation rights at the pre-trial, trial and post-trial stage.
It illustrates that it makes a significant difference for victims and their involvement in proceedings whether the criminal case is tried in Berlin, Canberra, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, New York or Paris.