Wednesday, 18 July 2012
My Thoughts on Victims' Experience of the Justice System
By Anrite, Extern, Defence for Children
I helped in a research project with a Canadian student of law on victims and during the short period that I assisted, I was able to observe, evaluate and reach possible conclusions on a number of issues with regards to victims, their family and the outcome of these cases.
I was able to conclude that ninety percent (90%) of these victims are generally uninformed about the due process of the law and most do not even understand why the law or the trial should operate in a particular fashion. For instance, most do not know why the case is being committed to the High Court or why it takes a long time for cases to come up in the High Court. In the midst of these uncertainties, there have emerged four different classes of victims who respond to the system in various and conflicting ways.
There are those who have the endurance to withstand the rigid and complex process of the law and are actively involved despite the long period of almost two and half years, which is usually the approximate time frame that these cases take before final judgement is delivered. Though not always, they are mostly the average income earners who are able to do a constant follow-up with the police officers or court registrar that has been assigned to a case. After two years and five months, a single mother was able to hear the judgement of her daughter’s abusers. She was only able to do so by thorough follow-up.
There are those who may want to take an active part in the process but are not properly informed and do not have the resources to do the necessary follow-up. Although few in this class are not informed when their case is called upon in the High Court because they might have changed address or their address could not be located as was in the case of a victim whose parents thought that the case has never been called upon when in fact the case has been called for almost two months in the High Court. They only know when I was able to trace them and informed them of the development of which they were totally oblivious of.
The quite majority of victims fall to the class in which they become frustrated because of the very long - time over a year, that the cases have to wait before it is being called upon in the High Court. Most of them are ignorant of the reason for this unnecessary delay and as such lose faith and interest in the trials. They forget about the trial and brand the justice system as unjust and ineffective. There had been quite a number of victims whose parents I have called and they told me that the system have failed them, they do not want to have anything to do with the court again and they are tired of waiting. The worst part is that some of them during this period are almost always reluctant to continue with any form of trial or even be reminded of the case.
The least group are those who settle for less. They accept monetary consideration from the family of the accused and strike a compromise in which they will not participate in any form of trial. This is in line with some form of African culture and a particular victim’s father told me that they are very poor, they cannot afford constant transportation to go to court or even afford a lawyer and it would only be a long futile journey to engage in any form of trial and the family and child’s name will be negatively branded.