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Just Interests

Victims, Citizens and the Potential for Justice

Robyn Holder

Just Interests: Victims, Citizens and the Potential for Justice contributes to extended conversations about the idea of justice – who has it, who doesn’t and what it means in the everyday setting of criminal justice. It challenges the usual representation of people victimized by violence only as victims, and re-positions them as members of a political community. Departing from conventional approaches that see victims as a problem for law to contain, Robyn Holder draws on democratic principles of inclusion and deliberation to argue for the unique opportunity of criminal justice to enlist the capacity of citizens to rise to the demands of justice in their ordinary lives.
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Chapter 5: Ordinary people accessing justice

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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