The Landscape of Victim Rights in Australian Homicide Cases—Lessons from the International Experience

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 31 (1):133-163 (2011)

This article explores the development of victim rights in sentencing through a comparative analysis of the rights of family victims in homicide sentencing proceedings across Australia, the United States, England and Wales and Canada. Of the various rights afforded to victims of crime, the use of family victim impact evidence in the sentencing of homicide offenders has proven most contentious, with various courts grappling with the weight such evidence ought to play in sentencing proceedings. In homicide cases where the family of the deceased victim submits a statement, all Australian and international jurisdictions except the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) have resolved to allow the consideration of such statements on the basis inter alia that family victims may incur harms potentially relevant to the sentencing process. New South Wales continues to reject such evidence on the basis that family statements may value the deceased’s life above that of another. This article considers the status of family impact statements in homicide cases by examining the treatment of family victims in sentencing law on an international basis, with particular focus on pilot schemes in England and Wales, where family victims have been provided personal counsel at public expense, for use in homicide cases
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DOI 10.1093/ojls/gqq031
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