To Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice:
This consultation is written in response to your new cross-governmental Victims’ Strategy, and is formally submitted by the IARS International Institute, which I founded in 2001, and currently direct. The consultation response has a dual purpose. First, it aims to inform your next steps in implementing the strategy, while increasing its awareness amongst our users.
The IARS International Institute is a user-led NGO, which puts emphasis on making users’ voices heard in matters that impact on them directly. This strategy is the outcome of the work that we have been doing with you and others, and it is thus welcomed. We aim to support you in your new steps and hence our prompt response in collecting user-led evidence and some key recommendations that we present through this consultation document.
Our response brings forth a number of issues that we consider to be strengths and weaknesses of the strategy. The response is supported by Comic Relief, which funded a three year women’s’ led project, focusing on gender-based violence. We used evidence from this project as well as the voices of abused women to develop a narrative around issues impacting on women and girls as victims of crime. We also used direct quotes from our victims’ panel and restorative justice practitioners.
In this open letter, I want to emphasise the need not only to strengthen the law in protecting victims and bringing this law in line with the Victims’ Directive, but also the importance of working with communities. The law alone cannot help you deliver your strategy. Speaking with victims you will also understand that the line between who is a victim and who is an offender are blurred. In the vicious circle of violence, lenear definitions must be viewed carefully especially when aiming to serve those who have been harmed (Gavrielides, 2015).
I will conclude with one warning. Over the last few decades, we have seen many well intended strategies. As you move forward with your new and important strategy, I want to remind you of the power that continues to be manifested onto the vulnerable. The very concept of victims’ rights was introduced within the human rights framework in the hope that it will bring some balance against the manifestation of this power. Without acknowledging this power, any attempt by your government to implement the strategy will fail. It is the power structures within our society and our criminal justice system that I want to bring to the forth of this consultation. I have launched a research programme to this effect and a call for case studies has been released.
I would be happy to send you the results as these accumulate over the years. The IARS International Institute and myself are at your disposal should you require clarifications and further evidence. As a membership organisation, we also aim to share this submission with our members and database subscribers. We would also be happy to share any response that you might have to what we have proposed.
Dr. Theo Gavrielides
Director and Founder
The IARS International Institute
26 November, 2018