Residents Suggest that Victim should Address Court at Consultation on Charter


Residents of St. Thomas have suggested that a victim of crime should be given the opportunity to make a presentation to the Court, before a convicted person is given a sentence for the crime committed.
However, the residents said this was not necessary at a parole hearing.
They were making their contribution at a public consultation on a Victims’ Charter, held at the Anglican Church Hall in Morant Bay on October 5. The consultations are being organised by the Ministry of Justice, which is the lead agency inviting the public’s participation before producing a final document. A draft Victims’ Charter has been printed already.
The residents argued that the move would allow the Court to be fully apprised of the severity of the crime committed and the full impact it has had on the victim, or in some cases, the family of the victim. They stressed that impact not only referred to the physical damage, but also the emotional, social and financial effect.
Other recommendations from the residents included: allowing the State to decide if the criminal should get parole; making communities aware when a convict is being released back into the community; and forcing a criminal to make financial payment to the victim by way of a work programme or the seizure and sale of assets.
Addressing the gathering, Director of the Victim Support Unit in the Ministry, Reverend Osbourne Bailey said the Government has been making significant strides toward the development of the Victims’ Charter. He said that the Charter, when established, would focus on the treatment of victims, rather than the punishment of offenders.
He pointed out that several key achievements have been made, including the establishment of a Victim Support Unit.
“People’s lives are derailed and destroyed by crimes and for a Victims’ Charter to be effective, everyone has to play a role. This also increases community cohesion and social solidarity and helps in beating back the monster of crime,” he said.
Canute Brown, Consultant on Justice Reform in the Ministry of Justice, pointed out that citizens should assist in the development of the Victims’ Charter. “Everyone should have some understanding of the Charter and determine how should the victim be treated at the stage where the crime is committed, the impact of the crime on the victim, the question of compensation to the victim, permitting the victim to attend parole hearings and the issue of how children and special categories are dealt with,” he said.
Another in the series of public consultations will be held in Portmore on Thursday, October 12 at the Portmore Missionary Church Hall (opposite Bridgeport High School).
Five consultations have been held so far in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Savanna-la-Mar, Kingston and Morant Bay.
The Charter is another step taken by the Government to meet the objectives set out in the 1985 United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, to which Jamaica fully subscribed.
One of the main aims of the Victims’ Charter is to address the status of victims of crime and institute policies, programmes and initiatives that will support such victims and provide them with fair and just treatment throughout criminal justice proceedings.

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