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Robyn Holder

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Robyn Holder

This chapter introduces debate about justice, victims and criminal justice. It challenges the usual representation of people victimized by violence only as victims, and challenges conventional legal approaches that contain their aspirations for justice. The chapter draws on Amartya Sen’s Idea of Justice to sketch an approach to realizable justice in the real world. Sen’s argument for inclusion and deliberation provides a framework for bridging different approaches to justice. The inclusion of those with directly affected interests, such as victims, in decision-making rests first on their status as a citizen. Categorizing victims in this manner then argues for recognition of justice institutions as duty-bearers to both victims and offenders. The chapter sketches the parameters of the Justice Study, its methods and the outline of the book.

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Robyn Holder

Justice matters to victims, justice professionals and the wider community, but why and in what ways? The chapter makes a path through justice literature to identify different meanings: justice is a norm; a philosophical ideal; a standard; an outcome; and also an institution. The chapter emphasizes the manner in which the idea of justice works; that is, as an interpretive tool, a trope in discourse, and as an analytic and critical code. Justice is thus conceived as a commonplace and public idea that is also vernacularized in interpersonal worlds. In these intimate spaces, the terms what is fair and what is right are commonly used by ordinary people. Justice is a word more generally reserved for public discourse. Therefore, it works as a connecting idea; something that links private to public, and offers opacity to language that, paradoxically, communicates what is important.

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Robyn Holder

This chapter explores how people understand and engage with law after violent victimization. It sketches law’s own dominating story, and the manner in which it seeks to impose. An alternate reality sees a constitutive relationship between law and social life. People who experience disadvantage, victimization, injustice or discrimination draw meaning about the event from their social environment as much as from the law itself. Different theories about, and research on, legal mobilization is described. Turning to the law after violence is a rare event and one that emerges from people’s membership of a bounded polity of citizens. As such legal mobilization is a social and civil practice influenced by cultural and legal schemas. The perspective highlights the interconnected and derivative nature between behavioural standards embodied in criminal law and wider social norms. Citizen-victims understand the limited and uncertain role law plays as a response to victimization.

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Robyn Holder

This chapter explores institutional and legal orientations to the victim in criminal justice, and to the idea of justice itself through the office of the public prosecutor. The discussion looks back to identify some key conceptual transitions in the evolution of criminal law and justice, pauses on present-day realities, and looks forward to touch on future possibilities. Lay people and professionals in the Justice Study are thus situated in a specific socio-historical context. Interviews with Australian and English prosecutors are analysed as a single narrative to outline core organizing concepts in criminal justice. The concepts are routinized in a manner that emphasizes prosecution benevolence and universality while hiding the power they exercise through discretionary decision-making.

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Robyn Holder

This chapter introduces the ordinary men and women who participated in the Justice Study and their authoring of their ‘sense of the legal’. The chapter brings critical attention to the terms ‘victim’ and ‘ordinary people’. The former is a construct both of legal reasoning and a socially fashioned abstraction where themes of sacrifice, exclusion and distortion comprise both the ‘psychology’ and the ‘politics’ of victimhood. The term ‘ordinary people’, on the other hand, allows a relationship between people and their social and communal environment. People’s ordinariness is developed through description of their social values, and their interpersonal and social environments. Local and national samples of other Australians show the Justice Study group are not so different. The chapter draws on a decision-making model of legal mobilization to analyse how people link their experience to perceived community norms and to perspectives on the availability of law. It is a portrayal that shows that turning to law is a move enacted with distinctly variable degrees of confidence.

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Robyn Holder

The goals and narratives of male and female victims of violence are explored over three interviews as they progress through the criminal justice process in a prospective longitudinal panel. Diverse motivations and objectives for victim engagement with criminal justice unfold over time and within the process. To these, individuals give different reasons that link with objects of interest: themselves as victim; the offender; and their community of others. These ideas, objectives and reasons constitute plural grounds for the overall goal of achieving justice. Offender accountability is revealed as a motivation to seek justice, a threshold from which other justice goals become possible, and a key objective. Formal accountability facilitates composite sentence preferences. The architecture of criminal justice allows multiple objectives to be articulated in a sequence and realized in a sequence.

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Robyn Holder

Justice is experienced as well as imagined. This chapter uses procedural and distributive justice theory to explore what lies behind assessments of satisfaction with criminal justice made by victims of violence. People make assessments from different standpoints and not only as ‘victim’. The longitudinal panel reveals high victim satisfaction with police that plummets in assessments of prosecution and of court and do not recover six to eight months after the finalization of the case. Behind dissatisfaction are assessments of the outcome acceptance, the quality of interpersonal justice, an influential victim voice and respect for offender rights. These form an integrated justice judgement. Within these dimensions, victims identified the importance of recognition of their standing, equality of treatment, and information and dialogue. The outcome was assessed in relation to its implications for the offender, the victim’s community of others, and to themselves.

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Robyn Holder

Justice is a complex, dynamic and nuanced conception that unfolds for people as victims. If this constitutes the idea of justice in the real world, the chapter explores how can it be made, seen, experienced, performed and validated. Citizen participation within areas of public policy and service provides a framework for analysis of victims’ perspective on the influence of their voice within criminal justice. An influential voice correlated strongly with assessments of satisfaction with prosecution and the court. However, people did not want to dominate or supplant authoritative decision-makers. Victims understood constraint within criminal justice. As a prospective process preference, people wanted formal adjudication as a key threshold where culpability became clear. After this, people retrospectively indicated more interest in restorative opportunities where the consequences of the wrongful behaviour could be raised with the offender, and comment on what should happen next then communicated to the decision-maker. Voice triangulated and was not ‘private’. Victims’ multiple goals can be sequenced through the steps of criminal justice.

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Robyn Holder

Seeing through the eyes of citizen-victims revealed justice as a means of critical evaluation, a standard of assessment, an inclusive structure, as a communal construct, and as an improbable horizon. The concluding chapter summarizes the core findings of the Justice Study and the implications of amplifying voices ‘from below’. It argues for the capacity and the right of the citizen to speak frankly and with dignity to justice decision-makers, and acceptance that no one is all good or always innocent. The obligation on justice institutions to ensure conditions for the active participation of citizens in matters in which they have a direct stake are stressed not only because they should and must check their own power, but because prioritizing inclusion is a fundamental ideal of democratic citizenship and decision-making in a democratic society. Implications for theory, law and practice are outlined.