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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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Appendix: Justice Study methodology

Robyn Holder

The Justice Study methodology consisted of:

•   lay and legal populations;

•   a longitudinal prospective panel of lay participants;

•   quantitative survey with repeat measures and scales;

•   qualitative interviewing;

•   discourse mapping and analysis.

The Lay Sample of Citizen-Victims

The lay sample comprised persons who had been victims of violence and who were in contact with support services. The selection criteria for the sample were that:

•   people were aged 18 years and over;

•   people were primary victims in that they had directly experienced the conduct from which the criminal charge arose;

•   the incident included some element of violence; and

•   the incident from which the charge arose was committed in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and hence would be resolved in the ACT courts.

The number of lay participants comprising the longitudinal panel commenced with N=33 and ended with N=19 (Table A.1), and their characteristics were diverse (Table A.2).

Table A.1    Numbers and percentage of lay interviews at three stages

Interview

Total (%)

TIME 1

33 (100)

TIME 2

26 (79)

TIME 3

19 (58)

Table A.2    Demographic characteristics of lay participants (N=33)

Demographics

Domestic assault (female)

N=27

Non-domestic assault (male)

N=6

Total

N=33 (%)¹

Australian born

23

6

29 (88)

English only spoken

19

5

24 (73)

Aboriginal

0

0

0

Disability

1

2

3 (9)

Children at home

19

2

21 (64)

Home rental

13

5

18 (55)

Employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Other

 

11

6

10

 

2

2

2

 

13 (39)

8 (24)

12 (36)

Occupation

Professional, managerial

Clerical, sales, service

Tradesperson, labourer, transport, factory

Missing

 

9

4

2

12

 

3

1

2

0

 

12 (36)

5 (15)

4 (12)

12 (36)

Level of education

Tertiary

Secondary

Other

 

9

16

1

 

2

3

1

 

12 (33)

19 (57)

2 (6)

Gross annual income

Under $25k

$25–45k

$45–100k

$100–250k

Missing

 

10

4

11

1

1

 

3

1

2

0

0

 

13 (39)

5 (15)

13 (39)

1 (3)

1 (3)

Note: ¹ Percentages rounded up or down to the nearest percentage point.

The prospective interview schedule commenced after police had charged an alleged offender. Table A.3 displays this as procedural point 1 (Time 1). The next two procedural points, Time 2 and Time 3, comprised a combination of both retrospective and prospective questions.

Table A.3    Justice study design: procedural interview points and outcome for each

Interview

Procedural interview point

Substantive outcome

Time 1

After police had charged an accused person with an offence and prior to a court hearing

The police arrest and charge decision

Time 2

After the finalization of the matter at court

The decision to prosecute or not, and on what charges

  

The court verdict and sentence (if any)

Time 3

Approximately six to eight months after finalization

Overall justice done

Survey/Interview Design

The Time 1 survey comprised 82 questions, generating 273 variables plus qualitative narrative. Parts dealt with the incident, after effects and the offender; others with the police response, and prospective preferences. A final section asked about civic and social values. Factor analysis of assessment of justice items was used to reduce the data and to identify clusters. Scales relating to various aspects of people’s civic identity and orientation were created as:

a)  disinterested justice assessment scales

b)  social value scales

c)  personal and offender assessments

d)  specific justice assessment scales and repeat measures (Table A.4).

The Time 2 instrument was in four parts. Part I dealt with overall feeling about justice and safety; Part II dealt with prosecution; Part III with the court; and Part IV about other support. The Time 3 instrument consisted of some closed questions but was predominately open and semi-structured.

Table A.4    Items comprising the justice assessment scales (and repeat measures) (N=33)

Scale

Variables

Reliability ScoreA

Mean inter-item correlation

Outcome acceptance

Agree with decision

Accept decision

Honest explanation for decision

Understand decision

Decision fair

Decision expected

0.9

0.78

Quality of interpersonal treatmentD

I was treated with respect

I was treated with dignity

Fair treatment of me

Respect my rightsB

HelpfulB

Treated as victimB

0.9

0.6

Influential voice

Opportunity to express views

Able to influence decision

Views considered before decision

Decision deserved

Decision wanted

0.84

0.52

Respect offender rightsD

Treated the violent person with respect

Respect offender rightsB

0.83

0.71

Notes: A Cronbach’s alpha (rounded).

B Reverse scored item.

D Variables comprising these scales in the second survey were scored on a six-point Likert scale where 6 = not applicable. The 6 score was treated as a missing value and recoded using the mean of 1 to 5 for each variable.

*   Aspects of the methods of the Justice Study were first published in Robyn Holder, ‘Untangling the meanings of justice: a longitudinal mixed methods study’ (2016), Journal of Mixed Methods Research, (online), a Sage journal. Reproduced with permission.