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Victims' rights in the United Kingdom

Australian Institute of Criminology, Professor Paul Rock
24 August 2005 -

Professor Paul Rock
Department of Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science

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The personal victim has traditionally been afforded almost no formal role in the criminal justice process. In the UK, victims' rights have always met with stout opposition from judges and the Lord Chancellor, who have guarded defendants' rights; the maintenance of professionally-controlled and emotionally unencumbered trials; and the doctrine that crime is at heart an offence against society, State, or Sovereign.

The presentation was based upon Constructing Victims' Rights, published at the end of last year, which provides a detailed account of how this opposition was overcome, and of the progressive redefinition of victims of crime, culminating in 2003 in proposals for awarding near-rights to victims of crime. The presentation examined changes in the forms of criminal justice policy-making and how the issues of the new managerialism, restorative justice, human rights, race and racism (after the death of Stephen Lawrence), and the treatment of rape victims after the trial of Ralston Edwards came to form a critical mass that required ordering and reconstruction. The resultant battery of proposals included the deft policy manoeuvre contained in the Domestic Violence, Crime, and Victims Bill of 2003.

About the author

Paul Rock is Professor of Social Institutions in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He took his first degree at LSE and then a DPhil at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. He has been a visiting professor at a number of American and Canadian universities. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at RegNet at the Australian National University.

His interests focus on the development of criminal justice policies, particularly for victims of crime, but he has also published articles on criminological theory and the history of crime. He is the author with David Downes of Understanding Deviance (fourth edition 2003, Oxford University Press). He was formerly editor of the British Journal of Sociology and review editor of the British Journal of Criminology, and is a member of the editorial boards of Oxford University Press's Clarendon Criminology Series and the University of Chicago Press's Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries Series.